Amid hopes that the IRA would comply with the terms of the Good Friday peace agreement and begin disarming, Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid used a legal loophole for the second time to extend the deadline for the election of a new Protestant leader of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The move gives the four-party coalition running the province’s affairs another six weeks to come to terms with the August resignation of David Trimble. If there is no movement on the disarmament issue by the IRA, it is unlikely that a settlement will be reached, and by Nov. 3 Britain’s options will be to dissolve the assembly and take over direct rule, or hold elections for an entirely new assembly. New elections would strengthen hardline factions on both sides, ensuring that the simmering conflict would continue to boil.