Belfast: The British and Irish governments have given the parties in Northern Ireland 48 hours to agree a way forward on a key power-sharing issue, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Wednesday.
After three days of tense talks on devolving policing and justice powers failed to produce a deal, Brown and Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen insisted "progress" had been made and there was a scope for an agreement.
But Brown warned that if the Northern Ireland party leaders fail to hammer out a deal on the vexed issue by Friday, the British and Irish governments would publish their own plans for moving the process forward.
Brown said: "We believe we have proposals that make for a reasonable deal on devolution of policing and justice, we believe we have proposals that make for a reasonable settlement on all the outstanding issues."
But he added, in regard to the 48-hour deadline: "If we judge that insubstantial progress has been made we will publish our own proposals."
Sources who took part in the discussions said one of the power-sharing partners, the Irish republican Sinn Fein, was deeply unhappy at the way the talks with the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had proceeded.
The issue of transferring control of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast is one of the final steps to full devolution envisaged in the 1998 accords that ended the province`s long-running sectarian conflict.