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Unionists Back N. Irish Peace Proposals

[NEWS] 11:49 11-27-99

By Martin Cowley

BELFAST (Nov. 27) - Pro-British unionists cleared the way on Saturday for the formation next week 
of an historic coalition government of Protestants and Roman Catholics to run Britain's volatile
 Northern Ireland province. 

But the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) warned that the new government's survival would 
depend on early disarmament by IRA guerrillas, and Unionist leader David Trimble threw down 
the gauntlet to Republican chief Gerry Adams on the thorny arms issue. 

``We have done our bit Mr Adams.It is over to you,'' Trimble said at a news conference after he won his 
party's conditional backing for a formula aimed at breathing life into the stalled ``Good Friday'' 
peace agreement. 

``We have jumped. You follow,'' Trimble said after his party took the leap of faith he had crusaded for. 

Trimble, who negotiated the rescue plan with Sinn Fein in talks led by U.S. mediator George Mitchell, 
won backing for the formula by 480 votes to 349 in a secret ballot of his party's ruling council. 

But underlining deep divisions in the party the delegates decided not give a final decision on the package
until another council meeting in February. 

Adams, leader of the Sinn Fein party, warned that the deferral of a final decision would fuel uncertainty 
that has plagued the Good Friday accord since it was signed in April 1998. 


``It is in my opinion the wrong way to sort this matter out,'' Adams told BBC radio. ``It will fuel the 
uncertainty and it will also keep alive the hope of the (anti-peace accord) rejectionists inside and 
outside of the UUP.'' 

Trimble, looking tense after an emotional three-hour convention debate, said the vote was a clear
 endorsement of the formula he presented -- that a coalition cabinet should be formed with Sinn Fein 
``on the basis that decommissioning (disarmament) will follow soon thereafter.'' 

The UUP leader, whose leadership hung on the acceptance of the deal, told the delegates he would
resign as First Minister of the new government if the IRA did not begin handing in weapons by February. 

Political analysts said that offer and the prospect of a reconvened February convention, which could 
reject the formula if the IRA has not disarmed by then, swung some sceptics behind the formula. 

But the wounds were obvious, with UUP opponents of the deal smarting over the decision to enter 
government with Sinn Fein before the IRA has handed over any guns. 

William Thompson, a UUP legislator who believes the Good Friday accord will break the province's 
British links, said he would resign from the party when the new cabinet comes fully into operation early next week. 

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Ireland's Bertie Ahern welcomed the UUP decision, which sets 
the scene for the creation of a cabinet on Monday, the transfer of home-rule powers from London 
on Tuesday and a fully operational government in Belfast on Thursday. 

Under the formula the IRA has agreed to delegate a representative to open discussions with the 
province's disarmament authorities but has not given a firm date for handing in weapons. 

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.


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