NI deal 'could be put back'

Recent forecasts of speeded up demilitarisation in Northern Ireland would put back chances of a political deal, Ian Paisley has said.

The DUP leader said it was not up to his party to say yes or no to the latest British-Irish proposals when they meet Tony Blair on Monday.

Instead, he said Sinn Fein should first indicate that they would abide by the governments' proposals.

Mr Paisley was speaking after meeting Chief Constable Hugh Orde on Friday.

He said that if the IRA gave up its weapons and abandoned its criminal activity he would have to "swallow hard" to do business with republicans.

There have been intensive negotiations between the two governments and the political parties over the past few weeks.

They have centred on the responses from Sinn Fein and the DUP to the proposals put forward by the British and Irish Governments aimed at restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

The current negotiations are being conducted through a series of British and Irish Government intermediaries because the DUP refuses to hold face-to-face talks with Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein has said it believes a deal is possible. However, the DUP has told the IRA a deal was "now or never".

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has urged Mr Paisley to accept the proposals adding that both governments are very clear about Sinn Fein's position.

But he said if the DUP leader believed it was "now or never" for a deal he should say yes to the latest British and Irish proposals.

On Thursday, he again declined to comment on the details of decommissioning and photographic evidence which has been demanded by the DUP.

He claimed this was a matter for General de Chastelain's arms commission.

The leader of the moderate Alliance Party has said a political agreement in Northern Ireland could be reached by the middle of next week.

David Ford has said moves are being made in the right direction.

Mr Paisley met the prime minister on Tuesday to discuss his party's response to the proposals.

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