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24 July 2003 Edition

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Congressmen call for date for Six County elections

Fourteen members of the US Congress have called on British Prime Minister Tony Blair to set a date for the suspended Six Counties elections. In a strongly worded letter, the Congressmen said they were concerned about the 'suspension of political institutions and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement'. The letter was presented to Blair last week as he visited President Bush in the United States.

The Congressmen also asked why the British government had unilaterally made the decision to suspend democracy.

"During our last meeting in Washington DC with the Secretary of State for the Six Counties, Paul Murphy, we expressed in the strongest possible terms our disappointment that the British government unilaterally postponed the elections to the Assembly," the letter said. "Not only was the public denied its fundamental right to vote, the cancellation of the May 29th elections sent a negative message to a society that has aspirations of becoming exclusively democratic."

The Congressmen welcomed statements from Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, US Special Envoy Richard Haass and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern calling for elections. "In our opinion, the British government should set a date for elections as soon as possible," they said.

The letter called for swift action on issues such as human rights, equality, justice and police reforms. In addition, it asked that devolved government in the Six Counties be restored, to "enable the people of the Six Counties to once again govern themselves".

The Congressmen concluded: " It is clear from our perspective that the Six Counties is a society in transition, and a just and lasting peace seems within its reach. At this critical moment, we reaffirm our intention to remain engaged in this process until the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is complete."

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