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Wednesday, January 7, 1998 Published at 10:06 GMT


Police detonate car bomb in Ulster
image: [ Three controlled explosions were carried out on a suspect car ]
Three controlled explosions were carried out on a suspect car

Explosives have been found in Northern Ireland as Government, Loyalist and Republican leaders face another day of talks to try to keep the peace process alive.

The BBC's Dermot Wynne reports from Banbridge (Dur: 40")
The Royal Ulster Constabulary confirmed that 300lbs (140 kilos) of explosives were found in a car in the town of Banbridge, County Down following a security alert.

A caller to a local radio station in Drogheda in the Irish Republic warned that a bomb had been left in Banbridge. A codeword, which authenticated the threat, was given.

Security forces carried out three controlled explosions on a suspect car in the Newry Street area of Banbridge and people were evacuated from bars and other buildings.

Bomb injures peace process

Despite the RUC's success in detonating the bomb, its very existence symbolises the rising tension throughout Ulster.

Sectarian violence, sparked by the murder of Loyalist paramilitary Billy Wright in the maze prison two weeks ago, is threatening to derail the peace talks.

On Tuesday, loyalist politicians failed to persuade paramilitaries in the Maze prison to back talks. Loyalists complain that the Government is favouring Catholics, granting more concessions to Republican prisoners than to Protestant paramilitaries.

[ image: Martin McGuinness supports the release of Loyalist prisoners]
Martin McGuinness supports the release of Loyalist prisoners
Martin McGuinness, chief negotiator for Sinn Fein, told BBC Breakfast News that he too was "disappointed" that the British Government had not released Loyalist prisoners at Christmas.

"I believe they have some cause for complaint. I hope that the British Government will be as imaginative as the Irish government has been in releasing prisoners prior to Christmas. I think that would be a major benefit to the process."

Maritn McGuinness talks to BBC Breakfast News (Dur: 2')
But Mr McGuinness also emphasised that the crumbling peace talks were not due to the incarceration of paramilitaries but because Loyalists are hostile to the peace process.

[ image: Gary McMichael:  The peace process is crumbling]
Gary McMichael: The peace process is crumbling
The Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam is to hold critical talks in London with Loyalist representatives in a desperate bid to save the negotiations, which are scheduled to restart at Stormont on Monday.

Dr Mowlam will meet, among others, the Ulster Democratic Party's Gary McMichael.

She will ask him to persuade Protestant paramilitary prisoners at the Maze to back their political representatives at the negotiations.

The prisoners' refusal to pledge their support could have serious repercussions.

Mr McMichael said: "Our position at the moment is quite precarious. Obviously, there must be concern that if we don't get a grip of this situation and pull it back, there has to be implications for the ceasefire."

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