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Northern Ireland Peace Process Loses Support - 2001-07-10

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, are holding a second round of talks with political leaders involved in Northern Ireland's peace process. The talks are taking place at a secluded mansion near Birmingham, in northern England. One of the smaller unionist parties has pulled out of the talks, and a unionist paramilitary group says it no longer supports the peace process.

The second round of talks has been overshadowed by a unionist paramilitary group that says it no longer supports the peace process. The Ulster Defense Association says, however, it will honor the cease-fire.

Now, the Progressive Unionist Party says it has pulled out of the negotiations. Party leader David Irvine told reporters in Belfast the peace process is going nowhere. He blames the republican Sinn Fein party for not pushing the Irish Republican Army to disarm as stipulated by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Mr. Irvine says his party is pulling out of the current phase of the peace process but remains committed to resolving Northern Ireland's crisis through dialogue. "Against the backdrop where we can identify that the republican movement is genuine and we can clearly see their intent for the future, then we would be keen to return to dialogue that can deliver for the people of Northern Ireland that which the people of Northern Ireland solicit" Mr. Irvine said.

The British and Irish Prime Ministers have organized the high-level negotiations to try to end the impasse over the disarming of the Irish Republican Army, which threatens to derail Northern Ireland's fragile peace process.

The Unionist head of the power-sharing government, David Trimble, resigned on July 1 after complaining the IRA had not disarmed as stipulated by the peace agreement. "We're in the middle of doing things that are not fully completed yet," Mr. Trimble said. "But on the issue of decommissioning, nothing has been done".

If Mr. Trimble is not replaced or reinstated by mid-August, London will either have to call new elections in Northern Ireland or suspend home rule.

Gerry Adams, who heads the IRA's political wing, says the British government needs to show stronger leadership and a change of attitude. "What we were trying to establish for some time is how well the British government understands the imperative of the Good Friday agreement and that that is the template for resolving all these outstanding and contentious issues".

The republican movement wants to see more progress on reforming the police force and ending Britain's military presence in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Adams has been in touch with former U.S. President Bill Clinton. The media is speculating Mr. Clinton may get involved in the last-ditch efforts for a breakthrough. He had played an active role in Northern Ireland's peace process while in White House and has expressed his concern for its future.