BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ The Irish Republican Army said today it intends to open negotiations with Northern Ireland's disarmament commission, a significant gesture in support of the Good Friday peace accord.

In a short statement issued to Irish media, the outlawed IRA emphasized, however, that it wouldn't meet the commission until a joint Protestant-Catholic administration for Northern Ireland was appointed.

In its four-paragraph statement, the IRA also reiterated its view that last year's accord was ``a significant development, and we believe its full implementation will contribute to the achievement of lasting peace.''

The IRA has been observing a cease-fire since 1997, after killing about 1,800 people during a 27-year campaign to abolish Northern Ireland as a Protestant-majority state.

Under terms of the Good Friday accord, a new 12-member Cabinet composed of four Northern Ireland parties would gradually receive powers from the British government, which has had direct control of affairs here since 1972. Sinn Fein would receive two posts.

A majority of Ulster Unionist lawmakers would have to vote in favor of softening its policy on demanding IRA disarmament up front. Trimble faces a divisive, difficult vote within his feud-riven party later this month.