Bruton asks Britain to strike IRA deal Irish prime minister wants Major to drop call for disarmament


DUBLIN, Ireland -- Departing from the Irish government's approach toward peace efforts in Northern Ireland, Prime Minister John Bruton has publicly urged Britain to compromise in a way that would allow the Irish Republican Army to take part in full-fledged peace talks.

The compromise, Mr. Bruton said in a speech in London on Saturday night, would force Britain to drop its demand that the IRA begin disarming before Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, can be admitted to talks involving all the parties in Northern Ireland.

"I have to say that, at this critical juncture, the support of the British government for a reasonable compromise on the remaining issues in the way of all-party talks is now needed to move the process forward," he told Irish political supporters.

In the past, the Irish government's approach has been to coordinate all steps in the peace effort with London, and not to press compromise publicly on the government of Prime Minister John Major. The Northern Ireland Office, which administers the British province in Belfast, sharply criticized the proposal by Mr. Bruton, calling it "dismaying" and "regrettable" and amounting to "megaphone" diplomacy.

Sinn Fein has argued that the IRA cease-fire, now in its 15th month, is adequate proof of its peaceful intentions and that disarmament as a precondition to talks is impossible. With President Clinton scheduled to visit Northern Ireland and Ireland at the end of the month, Clinton administration officials are reportedly disturbed at the apparent rift between Dublin and London and have signaled that Washington wants progress in the peace effort before Mr. Clinton arrives.

"It is time to take the next step for peace," Mr. Bruton said Saturday.

He added yesterday that he had talked by telephone with Mr. Major, who was in New Zealand for a gathering of Commonwealth nations, and that they had agreed on the importance of cooperation between the two nations. Mr. Major was quoted by the Irish national radio as saying he understood Mr. Bruton's frustration in trying to advance the peace effort. But he gave no indication that British policy was about to change.

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