The leaders of the four main churches in Ireland have urged Sinn Fein and the DUP to intensify and "redouble their efforts" to find a solution to the current deadlock in the North's power sharing executive.

In a joint statement, Church of Ireland Archbishop Alan Harper, Presbyterian Moderator Stafford Carson, Methodist President Donald Ker and Roman Catholic Cardinal Sean Brady pledged their support to the negotiations.

"We urge the delegations of all the political parties to redouble their efforts to reach a settlement.

"We believe that the people of Northern Ireland expect their representatives to ensure that agreement is reached and that the institutions of partnership government are sustained."

The church leaders said it was a long time since the "dark days of the Troubles".

"No-one wishes to return to the tragic patterns of the past and we believe that responsibility of the politicians is to ensure that there is no return to dysfunctional division," they said.

The British and Irish Prime Ministers, Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen, said that "progress" had been made and that a deal was possible.

President of Ireland Mary McAleese called for both sides to resolve their differences, the "future cannot be a slide back to the past" there must be "a step up to a dynamic and forward looking Northern Ireland."

The devolution of police and justice in Northern Ireland is one of the last steps of the Good Friday agreement. The executive may collapse if an agreement is not reached.

The DUP and UUP have agreed to share candidates if a snap election is called. There is a possibility that Sin Fein could loose two seats if a snap election was called.