Unionist party rejects talks, tensions rise in Northern Ireland
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP)

A pro-British party refused today to join talks on Northern Ireland's future, provoking criticism from the leader of the province's largest Protestant party. The Democratic Unionists rejected participation in the talks, which the Irish Republican Army's political allies recently joined, saying the talks themselves were a threat to the union with Britain.

"The framework document is an agenda to take away the union," said Democratic Unionist leader the Rev. Ian Paisley. "You cannot defend the union by saying that it is going to be negotiated on the table."

David Trimble, leader of the largest Protestant party, the Ulster Unionists, on Wednesday criticized Paisley's party and the small U.K. Unionist Party for leaving the talks, saying they would leave the union with Britain defenseless.

Trimble said he will stress at the talks his party's opposition to the IRA goal of a united Ireland, or anything that smacks of it.

"With Ulster Unionists at the table there will no united Ireland, there will be no joint sovereignty, no joint authority -- actual or disguised," Trimble said. Trimble's party left the talks Monday when the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party was admitted, but returned to the scene of the talks Wednesday and insisted it was still part of the process.

The party came back despite a bomb attack Tuesday at a police station in Markethill, 35 miles southwest of Belfast. Trimble blamed the IRA, which denied responsibility.

"We will not run away from them. We are not there to negotiate with them but to confront them -- to expose their fascist character," Trimble said. The Ulster Unionists were joined by two small parties -- the Ulster Democratic Party and the Progressive Unionist Party -- which are associated with pro-British paramilitary groups.

Sinn Fein and the IRA are pressing for an end to British rule in Northern Ireland and unification with the independent republic of Ireland. The negotiations are intended to produce agreement on new forms of governing Northern Ireland that are acceptable to the Protestant majority and to the Roman Catholic minority.

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