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Britain Suspends Northern Ireland Assembly - 2001-08-10

Britain has suspended Northern Ireland's coalition assembly. The move will give rival Catholic and Protestant politicians at least six more weeks to settle differences threatening Northern Ireland's peace process.

Britain's secretary of state for Northern Ireland, John Reid, delivered his much-anticipated announcement late Friday.

He said he will briefly suspend Northern Ireland's legislative assembly as the best way to keep up momentum toward peace. "We are, I believe, tantalizingly close to being in a different world here in Northern Ireland," Mr. Reid said. "We have it in our grasp to take a huge stride forward. I believe the parties should be given more time."

Mr. Reid's other options were for London to resume direct rule of Northern Ireland, or new elections.

He said elections now would only fuel political passions and threaten efforts to end 30 years of sectarian violence.

Northern Ireland's government has been paralyzed since early July following the resignation July 1 of the senior Ulster Unionist politician, David Trimble.

He quit in protest over the Irish Republican Army's refusal to disarm. This week the IRA said it had struck a deal with an international disarmament commission to put its weapons beyond use. However, the unionists say they want actions and not words.

Mr. Reid plans to discuss his move on Saturday with Irish officials. He is expected to quickly lift the government's suspension of the assembly. That will give the parties six more weeks to resolve their differences over guerrilla disarmament and other issues.