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Wednesday, April 7, 1999 Published at 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK

UK Politics

McGuinness adamant on arms

Only the Loyalist Volunteer Force has started to disarm

No prospect exists of the IRA agreeing to decommission any of its weapons or explosives as a precondition, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator has insisted ahead of crucial talks next week.

The Search for Peace
Northern Ireland's politicians will return to the negotiating table on Tuesday to decide whether they can sign up to a declaration to move forward the peace process, proposed by the UK and Irish prime ministers.

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern suggested the IRA could take part in a collective act of reconciliation, which would include putting some arms "beyond use".

[ image: Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair: Put forward proposals for progress]
Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair: Put forward proposals for progress
But Martin McGuinness, who is Sinn Fein's representative on the international decommissioning body, insisted the paramilitary group would not respond to pressure.

He told BBC Radio Foyle: "I am working on the basis that there is no prospect whatsoever for the IRA to decommission anything as a precondition to Sinn Fein's participation in an executive.

"I don't believe the IRA are going to jump to any ultimatum or demand issued either by David Trimble or those elements within the British military establishment who have hung unto this issue in a very unrealistic and unrealisable way over the course of the last four years."

Arms decommissioning has remained the stumbling block to the implementation of last year's Good Friday Agreement past its first anniversary.

The Ulster Unionists continue to refuse to sit in the Northern Ireland Assembly's executive council with Sinn Fein before IRA arms disposal begins.

After intensive talks last week, the province's political leaders reportedly came close to a deal, before announcing they would meet again on Tuesday.

Under the declaration put forward, Sinn Fein would be allowed to take up its two seats, based on a guarantee that the IRA would "voluntarily" dispose of some weapons at the reconciliation ceremony.

[ image: John de Chastelain: Heading disarmament body]
John de Chastelain: Heading disarmament body
This first step toward decommissioning would be verified by Canadian General John de Chastelain, the head of the international disarmament commission.

Mr McGuinness said Sinn Fein would seek to find a way through the impasse when the talks resume. But he reiterated the strong resistance with the republican community to enforced decommissioning.

"The history of republicanism and the demeanour of republicanism from time immemorial clearly shows that they are not going to bend the knee to the demands of elements of the British military establishment, or unionism," he said.

"Particularly if their assessment is that this is seen as an issue which can divide republicanism on this island."

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern have not yet stated whether or when they will attend next week's talks.

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02 Apr 99 | UK Politics
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