BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | NI prepares for peace deal review

NI prepares for peace deal review

The agreement review gets underway at Stormont

A review of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement aimed at kick-starting Northern Ireland's political process is to begin on Tuesday.

The British and Irish governments and the political parties will read opening statements at a round table meeting.

The parties differ about what form the review - expected to run until Easter - should take, with the DUP saying it will not negotiate with Sinn Fein.

Northern Ireland's political forums have been suspended since October 2002.

The main trigger was allegations of IRA intelligence gathering in the Stormont government.

When the 1998 agreement was signed it contained a commitment that a conference should be held four years later to review and report on its operation.


But Stormont has been suspended four times and replaced with direct rule for the past 14 months.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein say the agreement cannot be renegotiated and that the review should be short.

The Ulster Unionists say it should deal with the problem which lead to suspension in the first place - paramilitary violence - while the DUP want a wholesale renegotiation.

They will be at the table to join the other parties in reading an opening statement, but say they will only meet parties other than Sinn Fein and the two governments.

Paul Murphy and Brian Cowen are to chair the review

This is a problem for the co-chairmen, the Secretary of State Paul Murphy and the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen.

The DUP and Sinn Fein emerged as the two largest parties after last November's Assembly elections.

The government is talking about the possibility of holding another election if there is no progress.

Meanwhile, the US president's new special envoy to Northern Ireland is set to closely monitor the progress of the review.

Mitchell Reiss is due to hold talks with representatives of the political parties later on Tuesday, after meeting Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy on Monday.

Later in the week he will travel to London and Dublin to meet the two governments.

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