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Protestant Leader Shakes Hands With Irish PM

Northern Ireland's hard-line Protestant leader Ian Paisley and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern have shaken hands in public for the first time, in a symbolic step towards peace in the troubled area.

The two leaders Wednesday put on the cordial display ahead of talks in Dublin on regional issues.

Mr. Ahern heads the government of the predominantly Catholic Irish Republic. He said he and Paisley must put the "terrible wounds" of the past behind them and work together.

After the meeting, Paisley and Ahern agreed to visit the site of the Battle of Boyne, where supporters of the Protestant King William of England defeated the army of Catholic King James II in 1690.

On March 26, Paisley and long-time foe Catholic Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams agreed to form a new government renewing Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration.

Northern Ireland's Protestants have long wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom, while Catholics want to unite with Ireland. The Irish Republican Army last year renounced violence after more than 30 years of fighting to end British rule in Northern Ireland.

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