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DATE=11/28/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=NORTHERN IRELAND (S-L) ALT NUMBER=2-256588 BYLINE=LOURDES NAVARRO DATELINE=LONDON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: British Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson says he is confident the Irish Republican Army will hand in its weapons and comply with a U-S mediated peace deal. The deal approved Saturday by the Protestant Ulster Unionist party paves the way for a joint Protestant and Catholic government as early as this week. But, as Lourdes Navarro reports from London, there are still obstacles on the road to a lasting peace. TEXT: Ulster Unionists approved the plan that will have them sharing government with the Irish- Republican-Army-linked Sinn Fein before the guerilla group hands in its weapons. In return for Sinn Fein sharing power, the I-R-A must begin negotiations to disarm on the same day the new cabinet is assembled. Northern Ireland Secretary Mandelson told the B-B-C he is confident the I-R-A will honor its pledge. But he also promised the Ulster Unionists that he would suspend the new government if the I-R-A does not turn in its arms. /// ACT MANDELSON // If decommissioning then did not follow, then I would act and suspend the operation of the devolved government and that was a safety net, if you like, that they were entitled to receive and which I have given. /// END ACT MANDELSON // // REST OPT FOR LONG // To get the Unionists to back the plan, leader David Trimble had to postpone its final ratification until February -- giving his group the opportunity to stop the peace process if the I-R-A has not started handing over its weapons by then. He also offered to resign. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams expressed his party's anger at the compromise. Mr. Adams said deferring the decision would lead to uncertainty. U-S mediator George Mitchell is praising the Ulster Unionist's decision to approve the deal he spent two- months mediating. Mr. Mitchell, who was also one of the architects of the original Good Friday Accord of 1998, says it is a very significant step forward. But he is also warning that the peace process is -- not out of the woods yet. International pressure on both sides to remain committed is strong and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and President Clinton hailed the latest developments. Northern Ireland's new government could be in power as early as Thursday -- the first time in a generation the two sides have governed together. (SIGNED) NEB/LN/DW/RAE 28-Nov-1999 10:31 AM EDT (28-Nov-1999 1531 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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