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Sinn Fein Rejects Violence, Joins Irish Peace Talks

September 10, 1997| Associated Press

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Sinn Fein, the IRA ally that once embraced both the gun and the ballot box as agents of change, formally renounced violence Tuesday and took its place in talks on Northern Ireland's future.

Five party leaders of Northern Ireland's pro-British Protestant majority stayed away, underlining their skepticism of Sinn Fein's sincerity and of a process that they believe will weaken Northern Ireland's union with Britain.

The chairman of the talks, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, welcomed Sinn Fein's arrival and urged the Protestants not to boycott negotiations.

"We don't underestimate the difficulties but we are confident that agreement is possible," he said.

"I think that it is a defining moment," Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams told reporters in Belfast.

It is the first time since Northern Ireland was created in 1920 that the governments of Britain and the Irish Republic have jointly invited IRA supporters to join other parties to discuss the region's future. Sinn Fein was barred from talks in June 1996 because of IRA violence.

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