Sinn Fein Talks Resume

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BELFAST: "There is hope,” Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams told TIME London Bureau Chief Barry Hillenbrand as negotiations with the British government resumed. Tony Blair’s peace initiative, Adams added, “opens up a window of opportunity." For the first time in over a year, the IRA-allied party met with the British government in hopes of paving the way toward Sinn Fein's inclusion in ongoing peace talks on Northern Ireland. Still buoyant from his landslide May 1 election victory, Prime Minister Tony Blair is confident he can succeed where his Tory predecessors failed. "There is a mood of cautious optimism, but not the euphoria that there was two and a half years ago when the IRA agreed on a ‘permanent’ cease-fire," says Hillenbrand. "They will have to have a cease-fire that's credible." The British suspended earlier talks with Sinn Fein after an IRA bombing in London that killed two people, violating an earlier cease-fire agreement. That left Sinn Fein shut out of political talks on Northern Ireland that include the governments of Britain and Ireland and representatives of nine provincial parties. To get the cease-fire process rolling again, Blair on Wednesday transferred two high-profile IRA convicts from England to Northern Ireland. But while Sinn Fein negotiators herald the fresh round of talks as proof that "a new British government is in place," chances for a snap agreement are remote. While a cease-fire could land Sinn Fein at the table for talks on Northern Ireland, it could just as easily prompt the province's pro-British, Protestant political leaders to make a hasty exit. Getting everyone to the table will be one of Blair’s first hard tests.