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N. Irish peace plan teeters as midnight deadline nears

BELFAST (Reuters) -- Northern Ireland's peace pact hung in the balance on Wednesday as rival political parties struggled to meet a midnight deadline to end a stalemate in the Good Friday agreement.

With Sinn Fein republicans and pro-British unionists at odds over demands for guerrilla disarmament and the creation of a provincial powersharing cabinet, the British and Irish prime ministers held a third day of talks with both sides.First Minister David Trimble, who leads the powerful Ulster Unionist Party, declared that the "moment of truth" had come for the republican movement, which comprises the Sinn Fein party and the guerrilla Irish Republican Army.

"This movement must this day decide -- does it prefer the party or the army?" Trimble told reporters. "It can't keep both any longer."

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said he hoped to save the agreement, which was signed last year in an attempt to end 30 years of guerrilla war and sectarian turmoil in the British-ruled province.

"We are here to make this D-day for the people of this island," Adams said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and Ireland's Bertie Ahern, frustrated that the hard-won accord has been stalled, say they will have to look "for another way forward."

They say they have no "Plan B."