The focus of efforts to revive the Irish peace process moves to Washington this week as meetings have been organised in the US Capital for the annual gathering of Irish political leaders at the Whitehouse.

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held several hours of talks in Dublin last evening.

Emphasising the need for urgency, Mr Ahern said the peace process is faced with ``enormous dangers'' if the northern power-sharing institutions are not brought back into life quickly.

``The elections were in November. This is March. The worst time of all is when there is a vacuum. We have no intention of letting it drift to the local elections, never mind any elections after that. We really want to deal with it in the next few weeks,'' said Mr Ahern.

He claimed that the Assembly and the Executive would have collapsed even if they had been in place before the alleged attack and attempted kidnapping of the dissident Belfast republican, Bobby Tohill.

He said the same two significant hurdles that have bedevilled the peace process - continuing acts of violence by paramilitarism and doubts about the willingness of Unionists to share power - remained in the way.

``We want an end to paramilitarism in all its forms. Equally, we want certainty and clarity about getting an inclusive working administration,'' Mr Ahern said.

Speaking during a break in their meeting, Mr Blair said the two governments wanted ``to flush everything out in the open'' in the talks on the non-implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that will resume on March 22nd.

The ``basic principles'' had been set out in his 2001 ``acts of completion'' speech and in paragraph 13 of the Joint Declaration agreed last year by Dublin and London.

All of the political parties, said Mr Blair, want paramilitarism to end and stable political institutions created. ``We want to make sure that what everybody has been saying happens. It isn't a very complicated task.''

The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble, will also be in Washington, though Reg Empey, who may shortly launch a leadership challenge, will not be joining him.

The Democratic Unionist Party will also send a delegation to Washington, although they will not take part in the more high-profile events traditionally associated with St Patrick's Day.

As he prepared to leave Dublin for the U.S., the Sinn Féin President welcomed British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Taoiseach's commitment to step up the pace of talks to restore devolution.

But the West Belfast MP said: ``The difficulties in the process go beyond the problems of paramilitarism and the unionists' commitment to inclusive government as claimed by the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister.

``These are important matters and Sinn Féin will continue to work to see them resolved. But we are also very conscious of the refusal of the Governments to deliver on their obligations and of the effect that this has on the overall process.

``People should not underestimate the lack of confidence amongst republicans about the Governments' commitment to the Good Friday Agreement at this time,'' said Mr Adams.

In a continuation of the Dublin government's public dispute with Sinn Féin, Justice Minister Michael McDowell said people should distinguish between ``genuine republicanism and bogus and fraudulent arrogation of the term 'republicanism' by people whose every act deed and instinct demonstrate that they are in reality the very antithesis of republicans''.

In a speech on the history and meaning of the term ``republicanism'', Mr McDowell said one of the ironies of the term was ``the extent to which it has been harnessed to a series of adjectives and descriptions which have done Orwellian violence to its very meaning''.

The attacks on Sinn Féin by Mr McDowell are not being used to justify the party's exclusion from the review talks, Mr Ahern claimed yesterday. He said he was trying to do just the opposite.

``I know we have had some hard and harsh words. I know it is because of the Tohill case. I am not responsible for the Tohill case,'' he said.

But it was unacceptable, he said, to have ``people having a drink on a Friday evening and getting 92 stitches because of political violence''.

It has been reported that the Independent Monitoring Commission will produce a report into the Tohill incident ahead of schedule next month.

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