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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sinn Fein Chief Barred, Unionists Balk at Talks

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Anglo-Irish efforts to map a road to Northern Ireland peace ran into trouble Monday when the IRA's Sinn Fein political arm was barred from Belfast talks and Protestant pro-British parties stayed away.

Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew and Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring met for preliminary multilateral talks on elections ahead of full-scale peace talks in June.

But Sinn Fein was excluded because of the IRA's renewed bombing campaign in London. The staunchly pro-British Unionist parties also stayed away in protest at Spring's presence.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams found the doors locked when he tried to breach a British and Irish ban on the first day of "intensive consultations" about provincial elections ahead of June 10 all-party talks.

The governments have offered Sinn Fein talks with officials but say the Irish Republican Army must call off its anti-British bombing campaign before Adams can be granted ministerial talks or a seat in negotiations.

The guerrillas, fighting British rule in Northern Ireland planted three bombs in London last month, breaking a 17-month truce.

"What we want to do is go into the building. We are being denied the right to talk about peace," Adams protested when a British official blocked his way to the venue at Stormont, the seat of British rule in Northern Ireland.

"It is a matter of deep regret that the two governments are treating those whom we represent as second-class citizens."

Sinn Fein wants Britain to leave Northern Ireland and for the province to be united with Ireland.

Inside, Britain's Mayhew and Ireland's Spring were having discussions before an expected three-way meeting with the chief Catholic nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party.

But the parties of the Protestant majority, the Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionists, suspicious that Spring's presence was a covert British bid to cement a Dublin role in running the region, said they would not talk to him.

In absence of the main Protestant parties, the only parties in the full talks were the SDLP, the non-sectarian Alliance Party and the tiny, left-wing Workers' and Democratic Left parties.