IRA's political wing rejects key points in peace initiative


DUBLIN, Ireland -- Sinn Fein, the political wing of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, yesterday formally rejected crucial points the peace initiative for Northern Ireland that was advanced in December by the Irish and British governments.

Officials and analysts in Ireland and Northern Ireland said the Sinn Fein resolutions on the initiative, known as the Downing Street Declaration, were tantamount to total rejection and a serious setback for efforts to end the sectarian guerrilla war involving the British province's Protestant majority and its Roman Catholic minority.

But Sinn Fein's president, Gerry Adams, insisted that while Sinn Fein had found serious flaws in the declaration, it still regarded it as a welcome stage toward a negotiated peace to end the war that has killed more than 3,100 people since 1969.

Sinn Fein failed to comply with one of the vital provisions of the declaration, which calls on it to renounce IRA violence as a precondition to being accepted at a peace table. Sinn Fein also rejected the declaration's stipulation that the Protestant majority would not be compelled against its will to become part of a united Ireland.

Before the Sinn Fein decision yesterday, there had been hope among officials and ordinary people that Sinn Fein would indicate its willingness to arrange for a prolonged cease-fire by the IRA.

Mr. Adams said of the declaration: "It marked a stage in the evolving peace process. In its positive elements it suggests a politically significant change in approach of the governments resolving the conflict in Ireland. We welcome this."

On prospects for an IRA cease-fire, he said that Sinn Fein would continue to work "to create conditions in which the IRA can act on its clearly stated commitments so that a negotiated settlement can be agreed." Last week, the IRA issued a statement saying in effect that it would agree with whatever decisions Sinn Fein would take yesterday.

A few hours before the Sinn Fein conference that made the decisions on the declaration, an IRA unit in County Down, Northern Ireland, exploded a bomb that damaged a police car and sent a boulder flying into the bedroom of a 15-year-old girl who was taking a nap, injuring her.

The reaction of the Irish government to the Sinn Fein reply was one of "disappointment," Foreign Minister Dick Spring said.

"I don't think we're seeing much progress," he said about two hours after the Sinn Fein position was made clear after a daylong conference of 800 party members in the provincial town of Letterkenny, near the border with Northern Ireland.

Asked if Sinn Fein's failure to renounce IRA violence meant that its members could still not be invited to peace talks with the Irish and British governments, Mr. Spring said: "Sinn Fein know very clearly the position of the two governments. They must renounce violence. Then and only then can they take part in any discussions or dialogues with either government."

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