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London, Dublin Urge Compromise in N. Ireland

Britain and Ireland are urging the political parties in Northern Ireland to make a last-ditch effort to resolve differences and save the province's coalition government.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern discussed the Northern Ireland situation in London Wednesday.

They met as a deadline of midnight Saturday approaches for Northern Ireland's political parties to overcome disputes that threaten their 1998 peace agreement.

Prime Minister Blair is urging compromise, saying he dreads the thought of renewed violence. "It is precisely because we want to leave terrorism and violence behind in Northern Ireland, whether from the republican quarter or the so-called loyalist quarter, that we want this peace process to succeed," the prime minister said. "If we look at what's happened in the Middle East over the past year, I think we can see the dangers of what happens when the peace process falters or fails."

If the Northern Ireland stalemate is not broken before Sunday, London could be forced to resume direct rule over the province, or call new elections.

Northern Ireland's government has teetered on collapse since July, when the senior minister, David Trimble, resigned.

Mr. Trimble leads the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party. He quit because the Irish Republican Army had not begun disarmament as required under terms of the peace agreement.

Other issues that have not been resolved include a proposal to have equal numbers of Protestants and Roman Catholics on the Northern Ireland police force and a plan to reduce British military presence in the province.