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Northern Ireland Peace Process Regains Momentum - 2003-10-21

The peace process in Northern Ireland has been strengthened by Britain's announcement of new elections next month, and by the Irish Republican Army's statement it has given up more weapons.

A carefully scripted series of announcements aimed to revive the prospects for peace in the long-troubled province of Northern Ireland.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office started things with a breakfast-hour announcement that elections will be held in Northern Ireland on November 26. Later, the Irish Republican Army said it had handed over more weapons to a Canadian-led disarmament commission, marking the third time the IRA had surrendered arms since 2001.

Before the IRA statement, the leader of the IRA-affiliated Sinn Fein party, Gerry Adams, said it is time for political violence in Northern Ireland to end.

"Sinn Fein's position is one of total and absolute commitment to exclusive democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences," stressed Mr. Adams. "We are opposed to any use or threat of force for any political purpose. Sinn Fein wants to see all guns taken out of Irish society."

Following Mr. Adams's statement, Prime Minister Blair flew to Belfast for talks with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who has worked closely with the British leader on reviving local rule in Northern Ireland under terms of the 1998 Good Friday peace accord.

November's elections will restore the Northern Ireland Assembly, which was suspended last year following allegations of IRA spying within the province's joint Protestant-Catholic administration.