Sunday Life

**Deal with SF possible: Robinson

By Alan Murray
13 June 2004

THE DUP is not ruling out making a deal with Sinn Fein before the next General Election - but senior party figures have rubbished claims that an agreement is close.

With political talks scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Belfast, party leaders insist that a deal is some distance ahead if one can be secured.

And they say it is highly unlikely that a deal could be concluded with Sinn Fein before the end of the summer.

Peter Robinson, the DUP deputy leader and senior negotiator, told Sunday Life: "There is a broad outline of what is necessary, but there are many issues we haven't touched upon in the talks we've had to date with the government.

"By the time we're finished, Sinn Fein will know what is required of them and then they'll have to deliver or walk away," he said.

The East Belfast MP added: "The two governments may be planning a summit, but there are so many issues yet to be resolved that I can't see any likelihood of a deal before the end of this month.

But one senior source, who didn't want to be named, said a deal could be done ahead of the next General Election.

"The European election count on Monday will indicate if Sinn Fein has wiped out any SDLP hopes of clawing back from the Assembly Election disaster.

"If Adams and McGuinness demolish the SDLP again, then they may be prepared to take a risk.

"And if Nicholson polls poorly and doesn't get back in, then our party might think it is in a position to push on to a new Agreement," the senior DUP figure said.

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