IRA Blasts Britain

On the eve of talks aimed at breathing new life into IrelandÂ's crisis-rocked peace process, the Irish Republican Army ended weeks of silence with a fierce attack on Britain and a veiled threat to resume its guerrilla war.

A statement by the group said the landmark Good Friday agreement negotiated last year had failed to deliver progress and now seemed less likely to do so. It said the British government should shoulder the blame and take responsibility for getting the peace process back on track.

Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, said the IRA statement was unhelpful. Â"I think it is unhelpful because it shows the degree of mistrust that exists and probably fuels that mistrust,Â" she told BBC radio from Washington.

Earlier Wednesday, the American architect of the faltering peace accord huddled with key parties in hopes of paving the way for the eventual formation of a provincial government.

Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell plans to hold a review in September of the problems in implementing the 1998 accord, stalled by an argument over the Irish Republican Army's refusal to disarm.

Mowlam hoped that Mitchell would be able to help rebuild confidence between rival Protestant and Catholic political parties.

The IRA gave no direct response to demands by politicians in Britain and Ireland that it should disarm to help the stalled peace process.

But the IRA's statement said that Â"those who demand the decommissioning of IRA weapons lend themselves, in the current political context, inadvertently or otherwise, to the failed agenda which seeks the defeat of the IRA.Â"

It further warned political leaders that its previous cease-fire ended Â"on the demand ... for an IRA surrender.Â"

Keen on keeping the talks alive, Britain said the IRA statement did not constitute a threat to revert to violence.

The process has been deadlocked because politicians from the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland refuse to sit in a planned power-sharing provincial government with the IRA's political wing Sinn Fein until the guerrillas disarm.

But for its part, the IRA accused Unionists of reneging on commitments.

Â"The primary responsibility for the developing political crisis rests squarely with the British government. They have once again demonstrated a lack of political will to confront the Unionist veto,Â" it added.

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