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IRA ALLIES, BRITISH OFFICIALS DISCUSS WAYS TO END CONFLICT

SHARE IRA ALLIES, BRITISH OFFICIALS DISCUSS WAYS TO END CONFLICT

With little fanfare and characteristic recriminations, the IRA's political allies and the British government met openly Friday for the first time in 73 years to talk about ending the bloody conflict in Northern Ireland.

Martin McGuinness, 44, a former Irish Republican Army commander, led a delegation that included two former prisoners and the father of a dead IRA member."We've made a beginning," McGuinness said after the 31/2-hour session."It should have happened a long time ago."

British officials had no immediate comment, but McGuinness said there would be a second meeting on Dec. 19.

No British official came outside to greet the delegation as it arrived at the government buildings at Stormont, former seat of the Protestant-dominated assembly that governed Northern Ireland for 50 years until Britain abolished it in 1972.

The negotiations are about terms for Sinn Fein's entry into all-party talks on the future of Northern Ireland. Britain wants the IRA to surrender its weapons. The outlawed IRA began observing an open-ended cease-fire Sept. 1, halting its violent campaign against British rule of the province.