The IRA was reported Wednesday to have swung its weight behind the Northern Ireland peace accord, changing its rules to allow its political wing, Sinn Fein, to take seats in a proposed power-sharing assembly.

A secret meeting of the Irish Republican Army, which is fighting British rule of Northern Ireland, last week decided to drop a constitutional bar to its members sitting in what the guerrilla group calls "subservient" parliaments, British newspapers reported.The decision, which commentators described as a remarkable step by the IRA, would allow Sinn Fein politicians who are also IRA members to take seats in the Northern Ireland assembly envisaged as part of the April 10 peace accord.

The historic agreement among the province's eight main political parties and the British and Irish governments is to be put to a referendum on both sides of the border on May 22.

The accord endorses Britain's links with Northern Ireland while building cross-border institutions with the Irish Republic.

Sinn Fein, whose ultimate aim is unity with the Irish republic, will decide at a May 10 convention whether to urge supporters to vote yes.