IRA guerrillas and militant Protestants, combatants in a dozen years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, have condemned an agreement to set up an Anglo-Irish council to seek an end to the strife.

Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Irish Prime Minister Garrett FitzGerald agreed Friday to set up the intergovernmental Anglo-Irish council of government ministers from London and Dublin.

Sinn Fein, political wing of the Irish Republican Army, said yesterday that the council "will not diminish British influence in Ireland, but will actually increase its influence" in the Irish Republic.

Leaders of Northern Ireland's 1-million-strong Protestant majority oppose any moves that give the Irish Republic a say in the affairs of the British province. They vowed to resist what they considered a first step toward a unified Ireland.

Hundreds of masked Protestants occupied two Northern Ireland villages for about an hour as a protest against the planned talks between Britain and the Irish Republic.

After sealing off the twin County Antrim villages of Connor and Kells with roadblocks soon after midnight, 400 men wearing military jackets paraded in formation. Police moved into the villages in force but did not intervene.

The IRA, meanwhile, set off a bomb that wounded three British soldiers at the pro-Republican border village of Crossmaglen.

In Dublin, former Irish prime minister Charles Haughey condemned the agreement with Britain as a setback for peace in Northern Ireland.