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N.I. assembly looks to new vote

Alliance party
Alliance members held the power to tilt the vote in Trimble's favour  

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- Pro-Good Friday accord politicians will be looking to return David Trimble to first minister after a second unscheduled election on Monday.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid is expected to call on the 108 members of the assembly to cast their ballots again after Trimble narrowly failed to secure the unionist majority on Friday.

After frantic political talks between the various pro-agreement parties on Saturday, the small independent Alliance party said it would redesignate some of its five votes, helping to salvage the assembly.

The decision came just hours before a deadline by which Reid would have had to decide on whether to suspend the power-sharing government set up under the 1998 accord, or call fresh general elections.

Monday's poll will go against the wishes of the hardline Protestants who had voted against Trimble, and who have threatened to take legal action if there is any attempt to change Friday's result.

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If the ballot goes ahead, the Alliance party's decision to redesignate their votes for Trimble, should ensure the Ulster Unionist leader's election as first minister, and Mark Durkan, a Catholic as his deputy.

Alliance Party leader David Ford said "an adequate number" of its five delegates would vote for Trimble, an act he said was intended to save the peace process -- not Trimble's job.

Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's education minister, said: "Tomorrow can be the day when all of the pro-agreement parties together cross the Rubicorn."

The Alliance Party is aligned with neither the Protestant Unionist nor Catholic Nationalist forces which dominate Northern Ireland's politics.

The Democratic Unionist Party, a Protestant party opposed to the Good Friday accord, threatened legal action to prevent a new vote.

Reid said he would not suspend the assembly and would allow it to proceed with its business on Monday. He was keeping the prospect of new elections in review.

Ford had put forward proposals to reform the assembly's complicated voting system in return for his party's five votes.

Trimble, who resigned in July in protest at the Irish Republican Army's refusal to disarm, sought re-election after the IRA's breakthrough decision last week to begin getting rid of weapons.


• Trimble loses key N.Ireland vote
November 2, 2001
• Public backs Trimble in N. Ireland poll
November 2, 2001
• UK scales down N. Irish security
October 25, 2001
• Decommissioning move welcomed
October 23, 2001
• IRA begins disarming
October 23, 2001
• Unionists quit assembly
October 18, 2001
• Key unionists back IRA arms move
October 27, 2001

• Northern Ireland Assembly
• Good Friday Agreement
• Alliance Party

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