IRA Truce Sparks Hopes Fro End to N. Irelan `War' but the Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Predicts a Full-Scale Civil War, and Accuses Britian of Betraying the Protestants of Northern Ireland

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AFTER 25 years of bloodshed, Northern Ireland is poised on the brink of peace.

An unconditional, open-ended cease-fire announced yesterday by the Irish Republican Army holds the promise of an end to a conflict that has turned the province into a war zone and claimed 3,168 lives. The statement was endorsed by Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing.

The beginning of the statement reads: "Recognizing the potential of the current situation and in order to enhance the democratic peace process and underline our definitive commitment to its success, the leadership of the IRA have decided that as of midnight {local time} Wednesday, August 31st, there will be a complete cessation of military operations. All our units have been instructed accordingly."

But the IRA's willingness to order an end to violence and to seek a seat at the political conference table does not guarantee an end to the sectarian struggle that has pitted Roman Catholics and Protestants against each other for generations.

The text of the cease-fire statement was immediately subject to intense and detailed scrutiny by the authorities in London. Prime Minister John Major said yesterday he was greatly encouraged by the announcement of the IRA cease-fire but added, "We need to be clear that this is indeed intended to be a permanent renunciation of violence.... Let words now be reflected in deeds."

The Rev. Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), is forecasting a full-scale civil war in the wake of the cease-fire announcement and accuses Britain of having betrayed the Protestants of Northern Ireland by "selling out to the IRA" and "pandering to the government of the Irish Republic."

Mr. Paisley, who fears that the cease-fire may be a prelude to the unification of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, said yesterday: "I don't see in the document any renunciation of violence, I hear the salute to murderers.... I see no suggestion whatsoever of a permanent cessation of violence."

On Tuesday, Protestant paramilitary organizations were reported to be threatening to disregard the IRA cease-fire and step up their own campaign of violence. British security forces in the province are prepared for a Unionist paramilitary backlash.

In the past year, more than half of the terrorist outrages in Northern Ireland have been committed by Protestant paramilitary groups.

But James Moly-neaux, leader of the official Ulster Unionist party, which has more followers than Paisley's DUP, has counseled patience and caution. He said Tuesday: "Contrary to wild speculation, there has been no change in the British government's attitude to the constitutional position of Northern Ireland."

Shortly after the IRA cease-fire announcement, Mr. Molyneaux asked Mr. Major for further assurances that the constitutional place of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom would not be affected.

In Dublin, Prime Minister Albert Reynolds was preparing to set in motion what one of his officials called a "political talking shop" that would involve Sinn Fein in discussions about its role in the future government of Northern Ireland. …