Haass ends role as U.S. special envoy

President Bush's special envoy to Ireland has completed his final round of talks with the northern political parties with a message of hope.

Mr Richard Haass, on his 13th visit, denied the political process was in crisis.

He said he was struck with the progress that has been made and at the reduction in violence. He compared today with the situation 10 years ago ``and I marvel at it''.

But he said it was intolerable that paramilitarism still remained and he blamed IRA activities for the scale of the DUP vote in last week's Assembly election.

``For all this progress, Northern Ireland is still not where it should be. We should not have private armies in the year 2003 in the middle of Europe. There's no place for that sort of thing.

``We should have the full normalisation of politics, we should have a police force that enjoys the support of all citizens and all the political leaderships.'' Current political difficulties were not insurmountable, he said.

Denying again there was a political crisis, he said: ``This is what you would expect in the aftermath of an election. Now, people are focused on how to move from where we are to the next step. The review [of the Good Friday Agreement] will be central to this process.''

He said the US administration still supports the Agreement, adding: ``We obviously stand by the fundamentals of that agreement, the principle of consent, the need for power sharing, the need for political parties to reach out and work together.'' He said this was something the parties did ``with one another, not to one another, much less against one another''.

Mr Haass claimed unionists wanted to see normalisation of politics, adding: ``How the DUP will react to the opportunity they have been given, we will have to see. The DUP is going to have to decide, like all the parties, what it is they want to recommend.''

Mr Paisley, interviewed on Radio from Brussels, said he would shed no tears about his departure.

``I found him very, very favourable to the IRA...I think his attitude was totally disgraceful,'' he said.

But DUP Deputy leader Peter Robinson, following a 90-minute meeting with Mr Haass was more restrained.

``Once again we have had a useful meeting with Dr Haass in which we took the opportunity to press upon the ambassador the significance of last week's assembly election result,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams told reporters that by virtue of its mandate, the DUP had a veto on the re-establishment of the North's political institutions, but not on political progress.

``The DUP have a mandate, a minority one. We suffered from majority rule in the past,'' he said, and so he was not belittling its mandate.

``But the DUP have to know that they cannot prevent these changes. They are very modest rights and entitlements and the governments must press ahead.''

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