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All issues must be agreed for a deal, says Sinn Fein

By David Young

Every issue on the cross-party talks agenda must be resolved if a political deal is to be struck, Stormont's Deputy First Minister has insisted.

Martin McGuinness issued what was essentially an "all or nothing" warning as it became clear the vexed negotiations are set to culminate - one way or the other - at the end of this week.

With Prime Minister David Cameron and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny planning to join the talks on Thursday, both Mr McGuinness and First Minister Peter Robinson have set an effective weekend deadline for agreement.

As well as long-standing peace process wrangles over flags, parades and the legacy of the past, the negotiations are also trying to resolve budgetary problems, including the controversial issue of the Assembly's failure to implement the UK Government's welfare reform policies.

While progress has apparently been made on a number of issues, others are still mired in deadlock, among them welfare reform.

Mr McGuinness told the Assembly only a comprehensive agreement on all the outstanding matters would be acceptable to the public.

"Any agreement short of a comprehensive agreement would be, I think, held up to public ridicule," said the Sinn Fein veteran.

Politicians on all sides have conceded a deal would be much harder to reach in the new year when positions harden ahead of the UK general election.

Mr McGuinness said there would be "little or no chance" of finding agreement after Christmas.

"I would like to see it done by the end of this week, I am aiming to do that," he said during Assembly question time.

"I think the fact that both the Taoiseach and David Cameron have announced they are coming here on Thursday is a very clear indicator that people recognise that we are coming to the crunch in relation to these talks."

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