Blair Offers Plan For N. Ireland Talks

Prime Minister Tony Blair unveiled a new plan today for all-party peace talks on Northern Island and offered British acceptance of simultaneous negotiations on disarming sectarian guerrillas. He challenged Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, to make an “absolute” commitment to nonviolence so it could participate.

The issue of how to arrange a weapons hand-over had been cited by Sinn Fein as a reason not to enter multi-party negotiations, with the British government of John Major rejecting parallel talks and Sinn Fein demanding them as a condition for considering a cease-fire.

Thursday’s detailed initiative, a joint proposal of the governments of Britain and Ireland, sets a timetable for the process beginning in September and ending in May.

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