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WORLD IN BRIEF

Thursday, December 9, 2004; Page A30

Britain, Ireland Unveil Peace Bid for N. Ireland

BELFAST -- The British and Irish prime ministers unveiled a new peace plan for Northern Ireland on Wednesday that offered solutions to issues -- particularly the disarmament of the Irish Republican Army -- that have bedeviled negotiations for a decade.

The leaders' optimism was offset, however, by statements from the two key parties in the conflict -- the Protestant-dominated Democratic Unionist Party and the predominantly Catholic Sinn Fein -- that they could not fully support the plan.

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Disarming Northern Ireland

Each blamed the other for being unreasonable on the key stumbling block: whether the IRA should allow disarmament officials to photograph the decommissioning of the outlawed group's weapons stockpiles. Sinn Fein said the existence of such photographs would humiliate the IRA after decades of armed struggle.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, appeared to side with Protestant demands for photos and held out hope that the argument could be resolved quickly so the wider plan could be implemented this month.

"What we've achieved is remarkable but not yet complete," Blair said at a news conference with Ahern in Belfast.

The governments' compromise called for the photos to be taken but withheld from publication until Northern Ireland's legislature elects a power-sharing administration led by the Unionists and Sinn Fein.

Europe

MOSCOW -- Russia's upper house of parliament approved a bill that scraps elections for regional governors and instead allows the president to nominate candidates. The plan, proposed by President Vladimir Putin after a hostage siege in the town of Beslan in September, was approved earlier by the lower house.

PARIS -- The eldest son of former French president Francois Mitterrand was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to a 30-month suspended prison term.

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand was found guilty of not declaring revenue paid by billionaire businessman Pierre Falcone in 1998 and 1999. Mitterrand was accused of evading $798,000 in taxes.

Falcone is the central figure in a probe into alleged illicit weapons sales to Angola. Mitterrand has also been investigated in the probe.

THE HAGUE -- The European Union and China agreed to improve relations, but the E.U. made clear there would be no lifting of its 15-year-old arms embargo until China improved its human rights record. The embargo was imposed after the bloody 1989 crackdown on dissidents around Tiananmen Square.

ASIA

TOKYO -- Japan lodged a formal complaint with North Korea after tests showed that human remains purportedly belonging to a Japanese citizen abducted decades ago by communist agents are those of someone else.


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