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Northern Ireland's unionist politicians attacked on Tuesday comments by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams about a possible re-emergence of the outlawed Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Adams, in an interview with the Boston Herald newspaper published on Monday, suggested the current leadership of the IRA had permanently abandoned violence since it called a cease-fire Sept. 1.He also held out the threat of a new IRA leadership emerging if the current peace initiative, brokered by the Irish and London governments, failed to achieve its goal.

"None of us can say two or three years up the road that if the causes of conflict aren't resolved that another IRA leadership won't come along, because this has always happened," Adams, who is touring the United States, told the Herald.

Ian Paisley, outspoken leader of the hard-line Democratic Unionist Party - unionist because of its fierce adherence to the political union between Britain and the Northern Ireland province - was predictably angered by the remark.

"In the present context, (Adams) was more or less saying - "We have the great deterrent: If you don't do what we want we have the ability of turning the heat on again,' " he said.

Paisley, interviewed on BBC radio, said Adams wanted talks on his terms only, with the outcome being a united Ireland and a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, which it has ruled since the island was partitioned more than 70 years ago.

"He has his killing machine intact, not a gun has been handed in and not a pound of explosives," Paisley added.

But the Sinn Fein leader told British Broadcasting Corp. radio Tuesday that he was speaking hypothetically and did not believe that the peace process would fail.

"I refuse to get into the whole hypothetical situation and what may happen in the worse-case scenario," Adams said.