LONDON today held firmly to two key ground rules as John Major was poised to talk to the
LONDON today held firmly to two key ground rules as John Major was poised to talk to theTaoiseach, John Bruton, about its revised ideas for a twin-track strategy.
As speculation intensified over the latest proposals, contained in a weekend letter to Mr Bruton,the government stressed that:Britain's adherence to the demand, for an actual start on decommissioning before fullnegotiations, is unchanged; London cannot accept an equation between illegally- held arms and the weaponry of the securityforces in any twin-track process.
A source conceded that, in any process involving an international arms body, Sinn Fein or anyoneelse could chose, by themselves, to raise ''any subject under the sun''.
But the source added: ''We do not accept and this is a position where we have the support ofboth the Irish and American governments that the remit of the international arms commissionshould include the security forces and their weapons.''Downing Street again indicated the government's belief that the re-worked ideas were"reasonable"..
'We believe they are proposals to which everybody should be able to agree. It is the case that ourproposals may not be acceptable to some, and it may be difficult.
"But the process requires courage and imagination and we are prepared to see how it may beovercome."
Number 10 said both leaders would be in contact by telephone soon, possibly later today.
An Anglo-Irish summit before President Clinton's scheduled arrival in London a week today isnot ruled out.
"It is the Prime Minister's view that the time has come to move on and launch the twin- trackapproach. We would like to do this as soon as possible.'" Although Sinn Fein has warned that Britain's modified approach is still unacceptable, Londonhas not been deterred by the reported coolness of the Irish government to the plan.
Whitehall refused to go into detail about the contents of the British document, but disputed theaccuracy of weekend reports.
The British proposals are said to be not radically different from the outline plan recently suggestedby Stormont minister Michael Ancram.
Senior sources refused to be drawn on suggestions of a target date for all-party talks next year.
But they observed: "If all conditions are met, you could conceive of a time-frame that you getthose all-party negotiations off the ground.
''We are sticking to ''Washington Three " (the set of principles laid out by Sir Patrick Mayhew)and these are as important to us and they are important to the unionists as well they were before."