Northern Ireland's main pro-Irish party has voted to hold a special conference on whether to accept a Protestant-dominated police force.

Following six hours of intensive negotiations, members of Sinn Fein's executive body voted Friday to back the motion put forward by party leader Gerry Adams.

Sinn Fein's endorsement of a reformed police force is one of the last obstacles to restoring a power-sharing government to Northern Ireland.

Adams said Thursday a new start on policing will advance the search for a just and lasting peace. Northern Ireland's Catholics have long-distrusted the province's police as being repressive and pro-Protestant.

Protestant leaders have said they will refuse to share power with Sinn Fein - the political wing of the Irish Republican Army - until it fully embraces law and order.

Sinn Fein and the IRA have already renounced violence in their long campaign to win independence from Britain.

Northern Ireland's power-sharing government was set up under the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accord. It was suspended in 2002 because of Protestant charges of spying by the IRA.

Britain and Ireland have given the province until March to restore the government before it is officially dismantled and Northern Ireland remains under direct British rule.

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