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LONDON (Reuters) - Progress has been made in talks to restore a power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland but the issues cannot be resolved quickly enough to form an executive in the "immediate term", Northern Ireland Secretary said on Tuesday.
Last week politicians in the province, where a coalition between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists collapsed in January, missed a deadline to reach an agreement and no deal was reached at further talks on Tuesday.
"Despite the progress made by the parties to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland, gaps remain ... it is clear that these issues cannot be resolved quickly enough to enable an executive to be formed in the immediate term," James Brokenshire said in a statement.
"All parties have, however, emphasised their desire to remain engaged and to find a way to return to and resolve these issues. The government welcomes this and will do all it can to work with the parties to achieve a successful outcome."
Brokenshire said the overriding priority of the government, which could ultimately revert to direct rule from London for the first time in a decade, remained to reach an agreement on a power-sharing executive.
Reporting by Kylie MacLellan