Northern Irish parties making progress in last-ditch talks

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams leaves Parliament buildings at Stormont in Belfast for the last time in his role as Sinn Fein President. (Reuters)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Northern Irish parties making progress in last-ditch talks

BELFAST: Northern Ireland’s two main parties reported on Friday that they had made progress in a last-ditch attempt to restore devolved government, with the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein saying talks would conclude one way or another next week.
Northern Ireland has been without an executive and assembly for over a year since Sinn Fein withdrew from the power-sharing government, saying it was not being treated as an equal partner by the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The two parties, representing mainly Catholic proponents of uniting with the rest of Ireland and mostly Protestant supporters of continued rule by Britain, have failed to meet a number of deadlines to reach agreement since then.
“We have had a very intensive week of discussions. Progress has been made. We have more work to do and our negotiating team will continue working next week,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said in a statement.
A Sinn Fein spokesman also said some differences had been overcome and that talks “should conclude next week.”
Before the latest round of talks, disagreement remained on a range of issues including same-sex marriage, which is illegal in Northern Ireland despite being legal in the rest of Britain and Ireland, rights for Irish-language speakers, and funding for inquests into deaths during decades of Protestant-Catholic sectarian violence before a 1998 peace deal.
The British government, which is overseeing the talks alongside the Irish government, has already had to take steps toward ruling the region directly from London for the first time in a decade, setting its budget late last year.
Many in the province fear that direct rule would further destabilize the delicate political balance between the two sides who, until last year, had run the province since 2007 under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday peace accord.
The absence of an executive has also limited the province’s say in Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union, which are set to have a bigger impact on Northern Ireland than on any other part of the United Kingdom.
Friday’s talks were Gerry Adams’ last as Sinn Fein president as he prepares to step down on Saturday, having led the party since 1983.
“We’re not there yet,” Adams, who will be succeeded by Mary Lou McDonald, told the Irish national broadcaster RTE. “There are still obstacles and difficulties, and the fact that it’s taken so long shows how difficult it is.”


No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

Updated 21 August 2018
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No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

  • ‘The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern’
  • The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery

VIENNA: The UN’s nuclear watchdog said it had not seen any indication that nuclear activities in North Korea have stopped despite its pledges to denuclearize.
“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” said a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), referring to North Korea’s official name.
The report, published late Monday, by the director general of Yukiya Amano is to be submitted to an IAEA board meeting in September.
In 2009 Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear site and has since refused to allow IAEA inspections on its territory.
The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery, it said.
“As the Agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK, its knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear program is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining,” it said.
Between late-April and early-May, there were indications of the operation of the steam plant that serves the radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon site, according to the report.
However, the duration of the steam plant’s operation was not sufficient to have supported the reprocessing of a complete core from the experimental nuclear power plant reactor, it added.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump held a groundbreaking summit in Singapore in June.
At the meeting the pair struck a vague agreement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but there has been little movement since.
Before this, Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April for their first summit. They agreed to push for a declaration of an end to the Korean War this year.