Picking Up The Peace

A day after the formation of an envisaged all-party government was held up in a peace-threatening setback, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam started talks in Belfast on Friday about how to get implementation of the landmark Good Friday accord back on track.

On Thursday, Northern IrelandÂ's main Protestant party refused to join a ruling Cabinet with members of Catholic Sinn Fein until its IRA allies agreed to give up their arms. Underlining the collapse, BelfastÂ's top Catholic politician Seamus Mallon resigned over the issue.

With recriminations still resounding about who was to blame for the breakdown, former United States Senator George Mitchell was called back into service to help pick up the pieces of an agreement that he helped to negotiate.

A senior British official said Â"nothing was in and nothing was outÂ" in Mowlam's talks which start a months long Â"reviewÂ" of how now to implement the agreement.

Many pointed the finger of blame at Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble for allowing the pact to disintegrate into shambles.

Trimble, whose future as Northern Ireland's First Minister is in doubt because of the crisis, fought back and vowed to go on.

Â"The prize for success is large enough for us all to put yesterday's setbacks behind us and move forward,Â" he said.

The Protestant leader also emphasized that he still hoped to form a government that included two members of Sinn Fein.

Â"The important thing is the future and getting things right, instead of getting things done by artificial deadlines and driving things to the point where they crash,Â" Trimble said Friday in a BBC interview.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern, aided by Mitchell, meet next Tuesday to discuss how to get round the most thorny issue of paramilitary disarmament.

British officials said Mitchell who was President Bill Clinton's special envoy to Northern Ireland and chairman of the Good Friday talks, would Â"lend his experience and bring his insight to bear on the situationÂ" in the Blair-Ahern talks.

The talks would be Â"tightly focusedÂ" on disarmament and bringing the power-sharing assembly to life.

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