embarrassment to the IRA's political wing Sinn Fein, but was unlikely to throw the party off track in the current talks. It based its report on conversations with a spokesman for the dissidents, calling it "the biggest blow" to the IRA since a fissure in the organisation 11 years ago. A former Irish Republican Army "chief of staff", known as a hardliner, voluntarily resigned from the guerrillas' seven-man army council, it said. The report said the internal clash "could threaten the peace process" but added that an Irish Republican Army ceasefire called last July was holding firm. It said leaders were still firmly in control of the clandestine force, which is estimated to have some 400 members and fought a bloody 28-year-war aimed at ending British rule over Northern Ireland. The roots of the new dispute apparently lie in old differences over the price of the current ceasefire. Sinn Fein was admitted to Anglo-Irish sponsored talks when it publicly adopted a code of peace principles, the so-called "Mitchell Principles". The IRA later said it was opposed to some elements of the code. Factions in the guerrillas' "general headquarters staff" are said to have split over the future of the ceasefire in the event of no progress emerging in the talks towards the IRA's goal of an all-Ireland state.