N. Ireland Unionists reject deal

Published March 25, 2007

BELFAST, Northern Ireland - Northern Ireland's main Protestant party on Saturday rejected a British deadline to share power with Catholics, officials said, launching a showdown that could end in the collapse of the territory's legislature.

More than 100 officials from Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party voted overwhelmingly to reject Britain's long-held demand for a 12-member administration to be formed and receive powers by Monday, according to officials in both the party and the British government, speaking anonymously because negotiations between the two sides were continuing. Britain insists the Northern Ireland Assembly will be shut down immediately in favor of intensified Irish government involvement in the British territory if the Monday deadline is missed. The 108-member assembly, which was re-elected only two weeks ago, was designed to form an administration that would take control of government departments from Britain.