[Sinn Fein]

10th March 2003

Sinn Fein brief Diplomatic Corps on ongoing peace talks

Work on outstanding issues to continue over next few weeks

Sinn Fein Spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and the head of the party's International Department Joan O'Connor today briefed 29 members of the Diplomatic Corps on the ongoing negotiations between Sinn Fein and the British and Irish governments and the pro-Agreement parties. We also discussed the pending war in Iraq. Among those in attendance were representatives from the following embassies - Australia, South Africa, Palestine, France, Italy, Spain, China, Belgium and Mexico.

Speaking following the briefing Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"This morning at a meeting in Leinster House Sinn Fein updated the Diplomatic Corps on the ongoing negotiations between Sinn Fein and the British and Irish governments and the pro-Agreement parties. I outlined that while substantial progress had been made over a range of issues, including new legislation on Policing and Criminal Justice, demilitarisation, equality and human rights issues, there are also gaps and our party will continue to negotiate on these matters over the coming weeks.

"We also outlined our concerns in relation to attempts to bring forward sanctions and said that Sinn Fein is not against parties or party members being held to account if they are in breach of commitments or pledges of office. But we cannot accept and will not accept the governments stepping outside of the Agreement to bring in sanctions, which are aimed at our party for something we are not responsible for."

In relation to the pending war in Iraq Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"We outlined our belief that there is no justification for the war which would have catastrophic consequences not only in Iraq itself but throughout the Middle East We believe that the UN inspectors should be allowed to continue their work. Our experience of the Irish Peace Process has shown us in a very real way that dialogue and negotiation is the best way to achieve the peaceful resolution of conflicts.  We also discussed the Bill, which Sinn Fein brought before the Dáil seeking to enshire neutrality into the Constitution and what this would mean for international relations." ENDS

Sinn Fein will remain in contact with the Diplomatic Corps over the coming weeks and there will be a further briefing at the party's Ard Fheis at the end of the month.

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