Irish security forces find, dismantle 600-pound car bomb

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — Security forces in the Irish Republic found and defused a 600-pound car bomb apparently meant for some target across the border in British-governed Northern Ireland. It was one of two near-misses blamed on rival militias Tuesday.
The failed attacks came as envoys of seven political parties met in Belfast for what’s supposed to be a final round of peace talks for Northern Ireland.
Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews said the British and Irish governments, which co-sponsor the talks, were “pressing on” in twice-weekly sessions despite renewed violence in hopes of reaching an accord by May. The negotiators are working toward a compromise system of governing Northern Ireland.
Leaders of the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Fein, are threatening to stay out unless British Prime Minister Tony Blair meets with them first.
Irish police and soldiers discovered the explosives-packed car late Monday in a derelict farmhouse near Hackballscross, about a mile from the British-ruled north and 45 miles south of Belfast.
No group claimed responsibility, but police said they suspected an anti-British gang, Continuity IRA, was behind it.
Continuity IRA, opposed to the mainstream IRA’s 7-month-old truce, also was blamed for a 250-pound bomb discovered and dismantled on a different stretch of the border last week. The group is suspected of detonating car bombs in two predominantly pro-British Protestant towns last month.
Police suspected pro-British paramilitaries in another failed attack Tuesday.
In that incident, a man in a car tried to shoot a Catholic worker at a food stand near Toomebridge, 30 miles west of Belfast, only to have his gun jam.
No group claimed responsibility, but isolated Catholic workers in mobile shops have previously been targeted by members of Northern Ireland’s various pro-British paramilitary groups, only some of whom are observing a 1994 truce.