BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams insisted Thursday that the Irish Republican Army is not responsible for two killings this week _ and warned that Northern Ireland's peace talks ``cannot work'' if his party is expelled because of them.

The IRA later issued a two-sentence statement that, ``contrary to speculation surrounding recent killings in Belfast,'' its nearly 7-month-old truce ``remains intact.'' But the outlawed group's coded statement to Radio Telefis Eireann, the Irish national broadcasters in Dublin, did not specifically deny responsibility for either killing.

Adams accused Northern Ireland's main pro-British Protestant party and police force of conspiring ``to link Sinn Fein to this week's tragic killings'' and thereby have him thrown out of negotiations on the future of the British-ruled province.

``If you're asking me, can the peace process work if Sinn Fein is expelled? No,'' Adams told a news conference in Catholic west Belfast, his power base.

He refused to speculate on who killed drug dealer Brendan Campbell on Monday and Protestant militant Bobby Dougan on Tuesday. The Ulster Unionist Party and senior police officers blamed the IRA, which stopped bombing and shooting in July 1997 as the key condition for Sinn Fein to join other parties in talks.

Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, the talks chairman, required all participants to take a nonviolence pledge.

Representatives of Northern Ireland's main pro-British paramilitary group, the Ulster Defense Association, were expelled from the talks two weeks ago for violating that pledge after Northern Ireland's police chief, Ronnie Flanagan, said the UDA had killed three Catholic civilians.

The UDA admitted responsibility after Flanagan's comments. Observers do not expect the IRA to admit responsibility for either of this week's killings no matter what the police say. Adams described Flanagan as boss of a ``totally discredited'' force.

The UDA's Ulster Democratic Party pleaded Thursday with Paul Murphy, Britain's No. 2 minister in Northern Ireland, for their speedy readmission to the negotiations, which will resume in Dublin on Monday.

Murphy said in a statement afterward that the British and Irish governments, which cosponsor the talks, had begun to review the Ulster Democrats' eligibility to re-enter the process by the end of February.

He emphasized that any evidence of more UDA violence would have ``direct and unavoidable consequences.''

The UDA is facing internal pressure to retaliate for the killing of Dougan, a UDA officer.

Whereas the UDA's politicians are candid about their paramilitary links, Adams emphasized that Sinn Fein's 17 percent share of votes means it should remain involved in talks regardless of what the IRA does.

``Sinn Fein does not represent, we are not accountable for, and we do not speak for any armed group,'' he said, outlining a traditional Sinn Fein position that every other party in Northern Ireland rejects.

Adams similarly insists he has never belonged to the outlawed IRA, a contention at odds with several histories of the Northern Ireland conflict.

Adams emphasized that the IRA cease-fire ``is intact.'' When reporters asked him how he'd know, he said it was only his opinion and wasn't based on discussions with the IRA's governing Army Council. He regularly rejects media speculation that he is a member of that council.

In South Armagh, Northern Ireland's volatile border region with the Irish Republic where the British army maintains several bases and support for the IRA runs high, militant locals modified several of their black-humored ``Sniper at work'' signs.

The road signs, which portray an IRA gunman in silhouette, have read ``Sniper on hold'' in keeping with the open-ended truce. On Thursday, they were amended to read, ``Business as usual.''