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Major Readies for Possible IRA Violence, Breaks with Sinn Fein

By Fred Barbash
The Washington Post
LONDON

British Prime Minister John Major prepared the nation Monday for the possibility of more Irish Republican Army terrorism but vowed that it would not stand in the way of continuing efforts to negotiate peace in Northern Ireland. While offering no new proposals himself, he signaled some flexibility by expressing a willingness to consider others' options.

Addressing the House of Commons and then a national television audience, Major joined Irish Prime Minister John Bruton in ruling out contacts with Sinn Fein, the legal political wing of the IRA, until restoration of the 17 month cease-fire that endedwith a powerful bomb blast here Friday. It killed two persons and injured dozens.

Sinn Fein ad the IRA "have a choice," Major said in his five-minute television statement. "Only when they commit themselves unequivocally to peace and reinstate the cease-fire can thy have a voice and stake in Northern Ireland's future. If they reject that, they can expect no sympathy and no quarter. The IRA will never bomb their way to the negotiating table."

Officials said they had no reason to believe the IRA would soon reinstate that truce, and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, blaming Major for the breakdown in the peace process, pleaded helplessness in furthering that goal. Nor did he condemn the IRA violence, publicly urge the paramiltaries to stop it or hint at any new flexibility of his own.

Police throughout Britain and especially in London reinstated security measures they had gradually relaxed over a year and a half. hey evacuated several subway and train stations during the day in response to apparent bomb threats and searched vehicles and bags near buildings deemed potential targets, such as overnment offices, prestigious hotels and the financial district.

Ominously, a politician close to the IRA's opposite numbers among the Protestant paramilitaries issued his own warning. Whle those groups do not want to resume their war with the IRA, said Gary McMichael, leader of the fringe Ulster Democratic Party, "it is also recognized" that they "can't leave their community undefended. It is very much up to how the IRA reacts now."

That raised the nigtmare scenario of a return to the tit-for-tat sectarian terrorism that claimed more than 3,000 lies over 25 years before the 1994 cease-fire.