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Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
World press review

The breakthrough in the Irish peace process, following the IRA's historic decision to begin decommissioning its arms, has been overshadowed in the American press, as the US struggles to react to its own domestic troubles.

The European dailies draw a link between the breakthrough and the events of 11 September which, they say, triggered a loss of American support for the Irish nationalist cause.

Wednesday's New York Times editorial - Burying the guns of Northern Ireland - says the IRA's commitment "deserves to be met with substantial concessions from London" which should respond by initiating the demolition of British military installations in Northern Ireland.

Protestant paramilitaries must give up their weapons as well and changes within the police should be carried out to "make the institution fairer for Catholics", it adds.

Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs says US political analysts pinned the IRA move on an apparent U-turn in American support for the nationalist cause after the September 11 terror strikes.

The 11 September effect

The news has figured prominently across western Europe, with Spain's El Pais devoting several pages to the steps in Northern Ireland's peace process.

It says that "the supreme outrage" of the 11 September attacks in New York lies behind what it calls "the sea-change in Ulster".

This may have come as no surprise after Spanish Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy called on ETA to follow the IRA's example and decommission its weapons hours after the announcement.

"I would like others, and specifically ETA, to do the same, particularly given that the level of autonomy in the Basque Country is much greater than the decisions taken on Ireland," he said.

Colombian link

But France's Le Figaro says the move was in response to the discovery of IRA suspects in Colombia, which is fighting a war against narco-terrorism.

The link, it says, severely irritated the US administration.

In Germany, Die Welt calls the IRA's move "momentous" and Sueddeutsche Zeitung says that a major obstacle to the resumption of the peace process "is about to be eliminated".

The Times of India is one of few Asian titles to gave space to the IRA declaration.

"The shameful truth about the IRA's decision finally to take the guns out of politics is that it can no longer afford to stay in business," it notes.

"Queasy Irish-Americans, its main support base, will no longer agree to pay the bills, running to millions of dollars, in order that the IRA bomb its way to a united Ireland. Terrorism too, like the global economy, is in a recession."

But a greater part of the continent smothers the breakthrough in Northern Ireland's 30-year civil conflict with the unending train of global events surrounding US military action in Afghanistan.


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