Alerts could stop talks

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The Independent Online
An area around a key army base in north Belfast was sealed off early this morning following IRA warnings that a bomb had been left in the vicinity. Late last night warnings were telephoned to news outlets using a recognised IRA codeword, saying an anti-personnel device had been abandoned because of the presence of civilians in the area. The type of device or its location were not specified.

The warnings were taken particularly seriously in the light of a weekend IRA attempt to lure security forces into a trap when a device was left in a van containing a 1,000lb bomb, according to the security forces. This represented the first act of terrorism in Northern Ireland since 10 April, in effect breaching the seven-week undeclared IRA ceasefire.

This morning's alert was called hours before multi-party talks were set to resume today in Belfast under the chairmanship of George Mitchell, the former United States Senator, who yesterday met Tony Blair, the Prime Minister. Sinn Fein are excluded from these talks on the grounds that the IRA has not declared a ceasefire. Both British and Irish governments are reviewing the question of holding further meetings with Sinn Fein in the light of the IRA's weekend return to bombing.

The Northern Ireland security minister, Adam Ingram, said yesterday: "We are still looking at the full information coming forward, as to what the IRA are saying about it, what Sinn Fein are saying about it and, of course, our own security assessment of it."