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British, Irish Leaders Open Talks on Reviving Northern Ireland Government

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has joined his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, in Scotland for what they describe as last-ditch talks to revive a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.

Both leaders agree that if no agreement between Protestant and Catholic political factions in the province is reached by November 24, the Northern Ireland government will be disbanded and the area will return to direct British rule.

Catholic and Protestant leaders agreed to share power in Northern Ireland under the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords. Their government was suspended in 2002 when Protestant Unionists accused the pro-Catholic Irish Republican Army of spying.

Current issues revolve around the reluctance of Protestant hard-liners to share power with Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, and Catholic mistrust of the Protestant-dominated police force.

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