Protestant outlaws must `catch up' to IRA peace moves, Britain officials says

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain spoke on the second day of renewed activity inside the province's legislature. The 108-member body, which had been mothballed for 3Ѕ years before Monday's revival, is supposed to elect a Catholic-Protestant administration - the central goal of a 1998 peace accord - by a Nov. 24 deadline.

Hain said he understood the rising criticism of David Ervine, the assembly's lone member linked to the outlawed UVF. On Monday, Ervine formally aligned himself with a major Protestant party, the Ulster Unionists, in a legal maneuver that would allow Protestants to take an administration post away from Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party that represents most Catholics.

Hain contrasted the UVF's continuing menace with the IRA, which last year handed over its hidden weapons bunkers to disarmament officials and pledged that its 1997 cease-fire would be permanent, the AP reports.

Britain last year withdrew recognition of the UVF's own 1994 cease-fire after the underground group, which refuses to disarm, was blamed for killing four Protestant men and stoking Belfast riots. An international panel of experts, the Independent Monitoring Commission, reported last month that IRA commanders were encouraging members to end involvement in crime while the UVF remained heavily involved in extortion, counterfeiting and other rackets.