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Fresh Talks For N. Ireland

British and Irish leaders Thursday called for fresh talks next week to try to break a stalemate over how to implement Northern Ireland's peace process, stalled by a dispute over guerrilla weapons.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern told reporters he and British counterpart Tony Blair would meet in London Monday with the parties who are supposed to form the province's new power-sharing government.

He said both leaders would consult key negotiators by telephone over the weekend and there would be further discussions in Dublin and Belfast later in the week.

Ahern said it was now clear that a working draft known as the Hillsborough Declaration, which the two governments agreed to earlier this month, had failed to win as much support as they wanted.

"I also feel at times that the prime minister and I are like two long-distance runners running into a desert," Ahern said, adding that they could take the lead but needed others to follow.

Both leaders were committed to implementing last year's Good Friday peace blueprint for Northern Ireland but could not do so on their own, he said.

Ahern's call for fresh talks quashed speculation that London and Dublin might seek a pause in negotiations to break the impasse.

Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam said there was no doubt that the talks had hit "difficult times" but added, "We must never forget the parties are still talking. That is what is important."

As Blair and Ahern met, the province's designated government leader, Protestant David Trimble, dared Catholic-backed Sinn Fein to make the Irish Republican Army (IRA) disarm.

"It is time that the leaders of the republican movement stood up to the handful of paramilitarists in their ranks," Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, told reporters.

He was highlighting an issue that has held up progress since Northern Ireland's vaunted Good Friday Agreement last year -- guerrilla disarmament and when it should start.

The IRA called a truce in its 'war' against British rule in July 1997, throwing its weight behind Gerry Adams and his campaign to turn Sinn Fein votes into voices for Irish unity.

But like its Protestant foes who are also on a cease-fire, the IRA refuses to heed widespread calls that it disarm sooner than the May 2000 deadline set in the peace accord.

The fear is that the political deadlock could lead to a crescendo in violence from sporadic renegade attacks, which are an ever-present danger in the province of 1.5 million people.

The latest attack came Thursday as two "improvised explosive devices" were pushed through mailboxes of Roman Catholic homes by suspected Protestant hard-liners at Randalstown, County Antrim in the early morning hours. Police said a sectarian motive was being investigated.

The crude bombs, disguised as parcels and designed to detonate when opened, were delivered to wo homes in a predominantly Protestant neighborhood of the town, 15 miles northwest of Belfast.

British army experts defused the devices, marking the latest in a string of attacks against Northern Ireland's minority community.