Pressure on IRA after Blair claims breakthrough

Northern Ireland’s leaders have about six weeks to resolve the row over sanctions and persuade the IRA to end its operations if they are to strike a deal before campaigning starts for the May elections.

Tony Blair and the Irish premier, Bertie Ahern, postponed the poll from May 1 after two days of intensive talks at Hillsborough, County Down, failed to reach an agreement. But there was good progress in other areas. The two leaders put forward draft proposals saying the parties needed more time to consult their grassroots members. However, they will return next month with a take-it-or-leave-it plan to revive the devolved Northern Ireland assembly. The election will have to be declared by mid-April and the governments vowed there would be no further delay. In the Commons yesterday, Mr Blair hoped the basis for a “final breakthrough”, to resolve all the outstanding issues of the April 1998 Good Friday agreement, had been reached, but insisted there was “no way” the agreement would be renegotiated. Full Story

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