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UK, Irish premiers to join Belfast talks, seek new deal to save Catholic-Protestant government

FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 5, 2014  file photo of Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, left, and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson attend a press conference at The Royal School Armagh, Northern Ireland. Government officials say the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, David Cameron and Enda Kenny, will travel to Belfast later this week in hopes of forging an agreement to sustain Northern Ireland’s fraying unity government. The planned arrival of both leaders Thursday Dec. 11, 2014  signals increased concern that the 7 ½-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics, a key peacemaking achievement, could collapse without a new compromise pact at their Stormont government headquarters in east Belfast. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison, File)

FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 file photo of Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, left, and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson attend a press conference at The Royal School Armagh, Northern Ireland. Government officials say the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, David Cameron and Enda Kenny, will travel to Belfast later this week in hopes of forging an agreement to sustain Northern Ireland’s fraying unity government. The planned arrival of both leaders Thursday Dec. 11, 2014 signals increased concern that the 7 ½-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics, a key peacemaking achievement, could collapse without a new compromise pact at their Stormont government headquarters in east Belfast. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison, File)  (The Associated Press)

Government officials say the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, David Cameron and Enda Kenny, will travel to Belfast later this week in hopes of forging an agreement to sustain Northern Ireland's fraying unity government.

The planned arrival of both leaders Thursday signals increased concern that the 7½-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics, a key peacemaking achievement, could collapse without a new compromise pact.

The two principal parties in Northern Ireland's five-party coalition, the Irish nationalists of Sinn Fein and the British unionists of the Democratic Unionist Party, remain at loggerheads on a growing list of security, economic and cultural matters. The negotiations, which began in September, face an informal Christmas Eve deadline.

Failure to compromise could mean early elections or the renewal of direct British rule.