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UPDATED: 10:53, June 20, 2004
British, Irish prime ministers to meet over N. Irish Peace Process
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The British government said on June 19 that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern in London next Friday in a renewed effort to kick off talks on restoring Northern Ireland's home rule.

"The purpose of the meeting is to review and assess the situation of the peace process with the parties before the summer break and to explore further the basis for the way forward," a Downing Street spokesman said.

However, officials in Northern Ireland said their mini-summit were unlikely to break the ice, particularly as Ahern was due back in Ireland later Friday to welcome US President George W. Bush. for a US-EU summit.

Instead, the Blair-Ahern meeting will just become part of a series of talks between the Catholic and Protestant parties in Northern Ireland this month to lay groundwork for a more determined effort in the autumn, analysts here say.

The Northern Ireland assembly was suspended more than a year ago and the parties went into the election last November against the background of a deadlocked political process.

It is widely thought that any deal to revive the province's power-sharing government would involve fresh peace commitments and acts of disarmament from the Irish Republican Army, in return for a reduction of Britain's military presence and an amnesty for fugitive guerrillas.

Northern Ireland has been plagued by three decades of political and sectarian violence between Protestants committed to keeping the union with Britain and Catholics who want to end it and unite with the Irish Republic.

Source: Xinhua

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