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AGREEMENT IS NEAR IN STANDOFF BETWEEN QUEBEC, MOHAWKS

SHARE AGREEMENT IS NEAR IN STANDOFF BETWEEN QUEBEC, MOHAWKS

After four days of talks between Quebec's minister of native affairs and the Mohawks of Kane-satake, there is a glimmer of hope that the standoff that has turned this pretty tourist town into an armed camp will end peacefully.

"We have the agreement, it's just a question of working out the details for putting it into effect," John Ciaccia said as he emerged from a four-hour meeting late Sunday night. A key aim of the negotiations is the reopening of Mercier Bridge, the main link to the Island of Montreal from the south shore of the St. Lawrence.The Mohawks of Kahnawake have been mounting a sympathy blockade of the bridge since Wednesday, adding about 90 minutes to the commuting time of suburbanites.

Ciaccia said earlier Sunday night that the provincial police in Oka "have reduced their number of personnel but not in a way that will affect their own security."

The Mohawks had refused to end the bridge blockade until the police presence in Oka was reduced. The minister refused to say how many of the 1,000 officers who were in this village of 1,500 have been pulled out. Another sign of progress was that Ciaccia was accompanied into the Oka talks Sunday night by four observers from the Roman Catholic Church, thus complying with a persistent demand in negotiations.

Also, Georges Beauchemin, the deputy minister of native affairs, spent Sunday night at the Mohawk encampment working on the details of a tentative settlement.

Meanwhile, the Kanesatake Band Council lawyer told reporters that about 12 hours before police stormed the Mohawk barricade near Oka last week, the provincial police had been warned that violence would erupt because some of the natives were armed with rifles.

Jacques Lacaille told reporters Sunday that he personally told two police officers what they could expect if the police intervened. Lacaille said two police liaison officers met him, Grand Chief George Martin and other council members of Kanesatake for four hours on the eve of the raid to discuss the police action.

The more conciliatory Band Council has been at odds with more militant members of the traditional Mohawk government at Kanesatake.

Tensions rose in Oka Sunday when the acting mayor, Gilles Landreville, denounced any tentative agreement with the natives and said talks should not proceed without the participation of the municipality.

The attack on the barricade last week came after Oka Mayor Jean-Guy Ouellette demanded that provincial police intervene in the dispute over expansion of a area golf course. The next morning, hundreds of police officers moved in firing tear gas and tried to forcibly dismantle the four-month-old roadblock. A gunfight ensued, leaving Cpl. Marcel Lemay, 31, dead.

He will be buried Monday in Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec, at a ceremony expected to attract thousands of police officers from across Canada and the United States.

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service