Ten years after the Irish Republican Army's momentous cease-fire, negotiations resumed Wednesday in hopes of reviving a Catholic-Protestant administration, an elusive goal of Northern Ireland's hard-fought peace process.
But the Rev. Ian Paisley, the Protestant firebrand whose assent to power-sharing has become essential, said his Democratic Unionist Party won't even talk directly to Sinn Fein, much less cooperate with the IRA-linked party, until the IRA fully disarms and disbands.
"Do people who have arms and hold on to them -- can they be in the government of Northern Ireland? We say no," said Paisley, 78, an anti-Catholic minister and lifelong opponent of compromise.
Paisley compared the IRA to garbage that must be thrown away.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who met separately with British and Irish government officials at the Stormont government complex in east Belfast where the talks were held, said Paisley's invective may reflect "pre-negotiation nerves."
He recalled that Paisley's party boycotted the negotiations that produced the U.S.-brokered Good Friday peace accord of 1998.
"This is a new experience for the DUP. When was the last time the DUP were in negotiation with anybody?" said Adams, a reputed veteran IRA commander.
Britain and Ireland hope this week's talks will prepare all sides for painful decisions at a Sept. 16-18 negotiating session to be overseen by the British and Irish prime ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, at Leeds Castle east of London.