Sinn Fein to debate support for N. Ireland police

Sinn Fein leaders said Tuesday they will debate and defend their commitment to begin supporting Northern Ireland's police force in a string of public meetings in hard-line Catholic areas. The Irish Republican Army-linked party published a list of events over the coming week that appear certain to lay bare the tensions among its traditional supporters - many of whom have vowed never to cooperate with the predominantly Protestant police force in the British territory. Ending Sinn Fein's traditional boycott on the police is critical for the revival of a Catholic-Protestant administration, the main goal of Northern Ireland's Good Friday peace deal of 1998. Power-sharing has been on hold since 2002 because of chronic Protestant-Sinn Fein conflicts. Britain has set a deadline of March 26 for the major Protestant party, the Democratic Unionists, to forge a coalition alongside Sinn Fein - but says Sinn Fein first must demonstrate it accepts the forces of law and order in Northern Ireland.