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N. IRELAND PROTESTANT LEADER UNDER FIRE

Northern Ireland's key Protestant leader came under fire from both sides Monday as talks on the future of the British-ruled province resumed.

As leader of the largest of the eight participating parties, Ulster Unionist Party chief David Trimble is best placed to influence the pace and outcome of the talks, but the cross-fire of criticism is restricting his room to maneuver.

Gerry Adams, leading his IRA-allied Sinn Fein party back into negotiations after a four-week absence, asserted that Trimble was too inflexible to "be left in the driving seat."

And from the Protestant side, the Rev. Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party attacked Trimble as a compromiser likely to betray the pro-British Protestant majority.

Adams appealed for British Prime Minister Tony Blair to pressure Trimble, who opposes Sinn Fein's goal of abolishing Northern Ireland. Mr. Paisley insisted Blair should stay out of it.

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