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Britain's Blair: Northern Ireland Peace Process Threatened


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says failure to resolve the dispute over Northern Ireland's Protestant-dominated police is threatening efforts to restore a power-sharing government.

Returning early from vacation in the United States, Mr. Blair Thursday urged Sinn Fein, the political wing of the pro-Catholic Irish Republican Army, to support the police.

He said there must be a resolution before authorities can go ahead with elections for a new Northern Ireland Assembly.

Sinn Fein says it has arranged a conference to discuss the issue, but has not received a positive reply from the main Protestant party, the Democratic Unionists.

Northern Ireland's Catholics have long distrusted the province's police as being repressive and pro-Protestant.

Britain and Ireland have given politicians in the province until March to agree on restoring the power-sharing government. Otherwise, Britain will dissolve the local assembly and maintain direct rule from London.

Northern Ireland's Catholic and Protestant leaders set up the power-sharing government under the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords. Britain suspended that administration in 2002 when Protestant Unionists accused the IRA of spying.

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

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