Sinn Fein will rejoin Northern Ireland's peace negotiations despite reservations about where the talks are headed, leaders of the IRA-allied party announced Saturday.
The Protestant leader of Northern Ireland's largest party, the Ulster Unionists, urged his own troubled supporters to stick with the negotiations. David Trimble said the talks would ensure Northern Ireland's continued union with Britain."Nerves of steel will be needed, but be confident," Trimble told about 700 members of the party's ruling body, the Ulster Unionist Council, which is divided over whether to participate in talks that include Sinn Fein.
"They (Sinn Fein) are the people who are really under pressure, having led their movement into a situation wherein there is not a hope of them achieving what they want."
The talks on Northern Ireland's future began in June 1996 and are supposed to conclude by May. Sinn Fein was admitted last September on the heels of an Irish Republican Army cease-fire.
The British and Irish governments, which cosponsor the talks, suspended Sinn Fein for two weeks last month in punishment for two killings blamed on the IRA. Sinn Fein leaders refused to rejoin the other seven participating parties after their suspension ended March 9.
Sinn Fein announced after a meeting of its executive committee in Dublin that it "still has reservations with the talks process, but the party will continue to make its contribution to the process of change."
In his Belfast speech, Trimble emphasized he wouldn't meet Sinn Fein separately from the multiparty talks or speak directly with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. President Clinton asked him to do that Tuesday when both Adams and Trimble were guests at the White House.
Trimble said Sinn Fein rejects the idea, accepted by all the other talks participants, that majority "consent" within Northern Ireland is a requirement for any agreement. The IRA launched its campaign of bombing and shooting in 1970 in hopes of abolishing Northern Ireland as a predominantly pro-British Protestant state.
"As long as Sinn Fein-IRA does not recognize consent, does not recognize our right to define ourselves as British, continues to rearm, and continues to use violence to influence the negotiations, we have nothing to talk to them about," Trimble said.