28/06/2002

Trimble denies reports of talks 'withdrawal'

Ulster Unionist party leader David Trimble has hit out at a newspaper report claiming that the UUP are prepared to either snub or withdraw from next week's crisis talks with the British and Irish Prime Ministers.

In a statement Mr Trimble said: "The News Letter editorial this morning referring to next week’s talks, claims that 'David Trimble has decided that UUP participation will amount to… a brief encounter with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, followed by a hasty withdrawal'.

Mr Trimble said the party had "taken no such decision" and added "such conduct would run counter to my approach from the moment I became leader of the Ulster Unionist Party".

He said that he was "annoyed" that the News Letter had not spoken to him, contacted his staff, nor identified a source for the story.

This latest attack on the press coverage comes following the current crisis within the power sharing executive, increasingly difficult relations between the parties, and strained relations within the UUP executive.

First Minister David Trimble lost his composure following a line of questioning being pursued by the programme's presenter Noel Thompson during the recording of a BBC Hearts and Minds programmes broadcast yesterday evening.

Mr Thompson put it to Mr Trimble that sanctions sought by UUP hardliners against Sinn Féin would require changes to the Good Friday Agreement.

"It would require a change to the Good Friday legislation because nowhere in the Good Friday legislation does it say that Sinn Féin have to get rid of IRA weapons, they have to use their best offices," said Mr Thompson.

"No, that is quite wrong. You are quite, quite wrong about that and we mustn't peddle these myths – for it is no more than a myth. The Good Friday agreement commits all the parties to achieve…"

Mr Thompson interrupted Mr Trimble's reply: "By whatever offices they can use. Sinn Féin will say they are doing that."

Mr Trimble shouted back angrily: "You are distorting the situation Mr Thompson, entirely."

It is understood that Mr Trimble is under increasing pressure from the UUP executive to establish a timetable for sanctions to be imposed on Sinn Féin.

(SP)


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