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If Robinson were to quit, the Northern Ireland Assembly must either be suspended or dissolved for new elections.

BRITISH RESPONSE

Cameron announced Thursday that he was giving Robinson part of his demand. He said a judge would investigate the letters program and report findings - publicly - by May.

In Belfast, Cameron’s Cabinet minister for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, offered new commitments that weakened the reported value of the IRA veterans’ letters.

“No recipient of such a letter should be in any doubt that if evidence emerges in the future in connection with terrorist offenses committed before the (Good Friday) agreement, they will be liable for arrest and prosecution,” Villiers said in a statement.

POSTPONING A CRISIS?

A beaming Robinson, holding a copy of Villiers’ statement, declared victory and said he wouldn’t pull the plug on power-sharing. “If you get what you want, why on earth would you resign?” he told reporters, crowing that IRA fugitives now had “a fairly worthless piece of paper.”

Sinn Fein, which also could topple the government by withdrawing, dismissed Cameron’s probe as pointless and said the 187 IRA veterans “are not wanted for questioning or charge. That fact can’t be changed.”