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10 April 2003 Edition

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Crunch week for process

As we go to print on Wednesday night, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern are expected to issue a joint declaration on Thursday afternoon. This follows ongoing meetings between Sinn Féin and the two goverments and other pro-Agreement parties.

What Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and the Sinn Féin negotiating team have made clear to both governments is that the only deal republicans are interested in is one that secures the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Discussions have been continuing this week on outstanding issues, particularly around so-called sanctions, which are outside of the terms of the Agreement and on demilitarisation and the transfer of powers over policing and justice. Of note, Bertie Ahern this week conceded, contrary to earlier briefings to the media, that outstanding issues remained to be sorted out.

This week, of course, was also dominated by the Iraq war summit held between US President George W Bush and Tony Blair at Hillsborough. There was serious disquiet and anger at the holding of this meeting in Ireland, given the level of public opposition to the war on Iraq and the deaths of countless Iraqi civilians.

For republicans, the search for a lasting peace in Ireland and the war on Iraq are the two most pressing issues of the moment. The party's activists have always applied their revolutionary politics to the international arena as well as to the struggle at home.

On Tuesday, Gerry Adams presented a letter to George Bush and Tony Blair, in which he acknowledged the positive role played by the two leaders in the search for peace in Ireland and outlined Sinn Féin's opposition to the war in Iraq.

The Sinn Féin leader said that while the party opposed the regime in Iraq, "we believe that dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation is the route to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. The United Nations should be accorded responsibility for this. We urge that this war be halted now and that the UN be given the primary role for providing humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people and of rebuilding their shattered country."

He said that urgent attention must now be paid to the conflict in the Middle East and every effort made to resolve that ongoing tragedy for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. In doing so, he was continuing a tradition of lobbying successive British and US administrations on issues from world debt to Palestine.

Outside Hillsborough, at an anti-war protest, Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin reiterated these sentiments.

The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle will meet next Wednesday to discuss developments in the peace process, including the expected joint declaration from the two governments.

But it is the people who voted for the Good Friday Agreement who will judge whether or not what the governments propose will result in that Agreement at last being implemented in full.

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