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Britain, Ireland Unveil Plan for Northern Ireland Accord


Britain and Ireland have presented a plan for restoring Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration after failing to break a deadlock between the province's Protestant and Catholic leaders.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, Friday unveiled their own take-it-or-leave-it deal. Mr. Blair called the plan a basis for moving forward. The two leaders gave the parties one month to respond. If agreement is reached, the power-sharing government could be in place in March.

The Democratic Unionists, who support continued ties with Britain, and Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Catholic Irish Republican Army, failed to reach agreement at three days of talks in Scotland. The talks focused on power sharing and on disagreements over the area's Protestant-dominated police force.

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

Earlier, the British and Irish prime ministers had given both sides until November 24 to settle their differences otherwise Britain would formally close down the Northern Ireland Assembly and maintain direct rule over the province.

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