BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Britain stripped Northern Ireland's government of powers today in a bid to prevent the collapse of the peace agreement between Protestants and Catholics.

The move came despite a last-minute offer by the Irish Republican Army on disarmament which Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said he delivered to the British government.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said he had no option but to make the decision, which ends a 72-day experiment to share responsibilities among two British Protestant and two Irish Catholic parties in the province.

The switch of power from Belfast to London will take effect at midnight.