Britain To Reduce Troops In N. Ireland

Britain announced Tuesday its first troop reduction in Northern Ireland since the Irish Republican Army declared a cease-fire six months ago.

The removal of 400 of the 18,000 soldiers stationed in the province signals government confidence in the peace which has prevailed there since Catholic and Protestant paramilitaries ceased their terrorism last fall.

Although officials said the decision was based exclusively on a lessened need for the troops’ presence, officials also hope it will encourage the IRA, on the Catholic side, and its counterparts on the Protestant “loyalist” side to talk seriously about the “decommissioning” of their stockpiles of weapons.

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