UUP rejects talks with Dublin on election plan


THE ULSTER Unionist Party deputy leader has dismissed the Government's offer to discuss the proposal for an elected body in the North in the political talks established under the twin track process.

"It's nothing to do with the Government in Dublin," Mr John Taylor told The Irish Times last night. "It's a matter between the United Kingdom government and the parties in Northern Ireland. We're not in any twin track process with a foreign government."

His dismissal of the idea came as the Government attempted to move the focus of debate back towards the twin track process launched last November, and the Mitchell report on arms decommissioning published last week. Government and nationalist politicians yesterday continued to express anger at Mr Major's surprise proposal for an elected body, which they saw as sidelining the Mitchell report's recommendations and the twin track process.

The Tanaiste, Mr Spring, yesterday called on unionists to discuss the election proposal with the Government, and Government sources said the idea could be considered in the "political track" of the twin track process, which still has four weeks to run.

Government and nationalist condemnation of Mr Major's move continued at the start of a week which will see several meetings attempting to get over the latest stand off. Mr Spring is to meet Sir Patrick Mayhew on Thursday, Mr John Hume and Mr Seamus Mallon will meet Mr Major tomorrow, and officials of the two governments are also likely to get together tomorrow.

Mr Spring accused the British government of adopting "divide and conquer" tactics; Mr Mallon accused Mr Major of lying; Mr Martin McGuinness said the peace process had collapsed.

At Hillsborough Castle last night, Sir Patrick said: "I am very surprised by what he [Mr Spring] said. It is quite opposite to our intention. We want to see united nationalist opinion both within the Irish government and outside it. We have no interest in dividing it. We have an interest in uniting it, particularly in the context of elections which seem to us to be the way forward for all parties sitting down together if the paramilitaries do not start giving up their arms."

But Mr Taylor indicated yesterday that the Washington 3 precondition - that the IRA decommission some weapons before getting into all party negotiations, would remain. "We would initially have each party in the body stating its position, but I would hope that people would quickly gain confidence in each other, there would be some decommissioning, and then negotiations," he said.

Mr Spring said yesterday it was obvious from the reaction to Mr Major's speech that "an election is not on at this time".