Accessibility links

Blair Urges Northern Ireland to Continue Talks Despite Parliament Attack


British Prime Minister Tony Blair is urging Northern Ireland's political leaders to press on toward a power-sharing agreement despite a violent attack in Belfast Friday that disrupted their meetings.

From London, Mr. Blair said the effort to disrupt the power-sharing talks should make all sides more resolute about establishing self-rule in the once-volatile province.

Friday's incident at Stormont Castle - the historic seat of government in Belfast - began when a Protestant militant armed with a gun and a knife threw a smoking bag toward the building's entrance. The building was evacuated and security guards disarmed the gunman, but no one was hurt.

British army experts later found and defused six to eight explosive devices in the bag the gunman had been carrying that were "fairly amateurish in design," but still dangerous.

The incident cut short Fridday's efforts to break an impasse between the two main rivals in the political debate over Northern Ireland's future - the pro-London Democratic Unionists and the largely Catholic group Sinn Fein, which wants to sever the province's ties with Britain.

Despite the deadlock, the British and Irish governments have vowed to press ahead with a plan to restore Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration, which was suspended four years ago.

British authorities intend to dissolve the Northern Ireland Assembly in January and hold new elections in March.

The original power-sharing administration broke apart in 2002 after Protestant Unionists accused the pro-independence Irish Republican Army of expionage. The coalition had been established in 1998, under the U.S.-brokered Good Friday agreement that ended three decades of widespread fighting between Catholics and Protestants.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

XS
SM
MD
LG