Belfast Telegraph

**For some reason this reminds me of the 'Mmm Mmm' song by the Crash Test Dummies, and the Halloween deadline adds a nice touch

New deal in weeks or no agreement, warns DUP

By Noel McAdam, Political Correspondent
12 October 2004

The DUP today signalled a political deal must be reached in the next few weeks - but warned: "It's either a new Agreement or no agreement."

As behind the scenes discussions continued to resolve outstanding issues, including ministerial accountability, decommissioning and an end to paramilitarism, pressure mounted towards a Hallowe'en deadline.

If the timetable slips much further, parties are concerned the focus will shift to the next General Election, making compromise more difficult.

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said, however, both the SDLP and Sinn Fein need a "reality check" and had to "step up to the mark" if a deal is to be done.

"They have to accept that the Belfast Agreement has failed in several key aspects and until they are dealt with we are not going to move forward," the Lagan Valley MP said.

"The choice is not between reviving the Belfast Agreement and implementing it in full or failing to reach a deal. The choice is between a new Agreement or no agreement."

His call came after both Sinn Fein and the SDLP insisted the ball was now firmly in the DUP court.

As Secretary of State Paul Murphy, back at his desk after his health scare during the Labour Conference, prepared for his first meeting with new Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, speculation remained that the Government's position paper could emerge in the next ten days.

Much of the argument centres on what the parties regard as the "fundamentals" of the Agreement - and a wide gap on the core ingredients remains.

Senior Sinn Fein negotiator Martin McGuinness said: "We need to crack this by the end of this month. That's the reality we are facing."

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