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11 September 2003 Edition

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Elections Will Be a First Step

ELECTIONS ALONE will not solve the current impasse in the Peace Process, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness told reporters this week, but they can create a context for injecting a new dynamic into negotiations. McGuinness also said that "even with an election date, there is no guarantee of future initiatives from republicans.''

"We have to remember that the last time Mr Blair slapped republicans and the Taoiseach in the face by cancelling elections. This has created a deep well of anger and frustration.''

McGuinness' comments come ahead of Saturday's planned meeting in Chequers between the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and a Sinn Féin Árd Chomhairle meeting scheduled for the same day, at which the current political situation will be discussed.

McGuinness confirmed that republicans are currently engaged in intensive behind-the-scenes discussions with both governments at a senior level. High on the republican agenda is the issue of the sustainability of the Assembly, Executive and Cross-Border Bodies once an election has been called.

Republicans will also be strongly opposing the imposition of the `Independent Monitoring Body', the Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, confirmed earlier this week.

"Everyone knows that this Commission was established to appease unionism and, since it was first put forward, it has been tinkered with and diluted to meet the needs of factions within unionism,'' he said.

"Our greatest difficulty with this particular Commission is that the Good Friday Agreement has been fundamentally changed to give authority to a British Minister that he did not previously have under the Agreement. They stepped outside the Agreement to give him this power.''

"While we fully support people being held to account, we will not support a mechanism that is totally outside of the Agreement.''

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