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The BBC's Denis Murray
"It is a step in the right direction but by no means are we out of the woods yet"
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BBC NI chief security correspondent Brian Rowan
analyses the IRA statement
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Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 21:00 GMT
IRA meets arms body
Weapons: A stumbling block in the peace process
Weapons: A stumbling block in the peace process
The IRA has confirmed it has now had a meeting with the body overseeing the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.

In a statement on Wednesday, the organisation said that during the contact it had set out the basis for discussion on the arms issue.

It comes as Northern Ireland political leaders are briefing the new American administration on the current state of the peace process.

The statement, to be carried in Thursday's edition of the republican newspaper, An Phoblacht reads:

"On Thursday 8 March, the IRA leadership announced that we would enter into further discussions with the IICD (International Independent Commission on Decommissioning) on the basis of our commitment to resolving the issue of arms as contained in our statement of 6 May 2000.

"The IRA representative has since met with the IICD and set out the basis for discussions.

"The IRA has honoured its commitments and will continue to do so."

Stumbling block

The statement is signed: "P O'Neill, Irish Republican Publicity Bureau, Dublin."

The de Chastlain commission welcomed the "IRA's re-engagement" which it said it considered to "be in good faith".

Decommissioning is one of the issues which is creating a stumbling block in the peace process.

David Trimble:
David Trimble has imposed a ban on Sinn Fein ministers

First Minister David Trimble has imposed sanctions on Sinn Fein ministers in an attempt to get the IRA to "substantially re-engage" with the commission.

He has suggested he would be prepared to lift the ban on the ministers attending meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council, if such engagement took place.

Speaking in Washington, Mr Trimble said he wanted clarification about what exactly was discussed at the meeting with the decommissioning commission.

"I am aware that there has been contact between the IRA and the decommissioning body," he said.

"I have seen the IRA statement. But I will wait to hear is a statement from General de Chastelain himself.

"I hope that by next week we will have a statement from General de Chastelain that will give a full and impartial report."

Social Democratic and Labour Party leader John Hume welcomed the IRA statement.

Mr Hume said that he hoped that the meetings with the decommissioning body would continue.

Sinn Fein vice president Pat Doherty said the IRA statement was a further example of republicans honouring their commitments.

He said he hoped the British Government and the unionists should "take an example" from this. He also urged Mr Trimble to remove the "illegal ban" on Sinn Fein ministers.

Last May the IRA outlined a context for a process in which it said it would put its arms "completely and verifiably beyond use".

Basis for discussions

That context included the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the Patten report on policing and further movement on British Army demilitarisation.

But the IRA accused the government of not keeping its side of a deal.

Last week, the IRA said the May context would be the basis for the discussions with the de Chastelain commission.

That statement came as the British and Irish prime ministers were involved in talks with the main pro-agreement parties at Hillsborough to try to break the political impasse.

The IRA said it had renewed contact with the de Chastelain commission - the first contact since last June.

The arms commission is working towards a target date of June for the complete destruction of all paramilitary weapons.

To date, only a handful of weapons have been handed over for destruction and these were from the paramilitary splinter group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

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See also:

08 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Talks to revive NI peace process
20 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Downing Street talks on NI
10 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Adams warning over arms issue
09 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
'Progress' in NI peace talks
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