BELFAST : Silent Treatment Ends

Political leaders in Northern Ireland will begin new talks on the future of the province today, in what has been described as a "historic opportunity" to end ongoing violence between the mostly Catholic minority who want unification with the Republic of Ireland to the south and the mostly Protestant majority who prefer British rule.

It is portrayed as the first time in 15 years that the leaders of the various political parties will formally sit down to talk directly to one another. Chairing the extraordinary meeting will be Peter Brooke, the British Secretary for Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has been ruled directly from London, and one of the goals of the Belfast talks is to re-establish a local governmental structure to take over more of the province's administration.

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