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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IRA Decommissioning Inches Closer as Peace Talks Continue

DUBLIN -- Sinn Fein discussed prospects for Irish Republican Army disarmament and greater British military cutbacks as efforts continued Tuesday to make a breakthrough at Northern Ireland peace talks.

In Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern hosted talks with Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party backed by most of the North's Catholics, while in London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair did the same with the Democratic Unionists, the major Protestant party in northern Ireland.

Both hard-line parties are supposed to lead a joint administration under terms of Northern Ireland's Good Friday accord. But the Democratic Unionists -- who rejected the 1998 deal on the grounds it conceded too much to Sinn Fein -- are demanding the IRA first disarm and disband.

Ahern and Blair say they are on the verge of a deal for the IRA to reveal to disarmament chiefs its network of weapons bunkers, but Sinn Fein itself has refused to publicly discuss such a prospect.

Instead, after meeting Ahern, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams emphasized concerns that the Democratic Unionists might balk from an emerging deal -- and that Britain and Ireland would let them get away with it.

"We are concerned that the time frame is stretching," Adams said, referring to several deadlines that have come and gone without agreement in Northern Ireland, the latest being this week.

Ahern later told Ireland's parliament that his hope of reaching a deal by Friday was unlikely to be met. He said there were two major issues to be resolved between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists, neither of which he would disclose.