Saturday, December 12, 1998 Published at 07:47 GMT
IRA 'no' to decommissioning
No end in sight to deadlock over IRA weapons
The IRA has "firmly ruled out" the decommissioning of any of its guns or explosives, sources have told the BBC.
The unambiguous signal came just hours after the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble insisted in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize there had to be a "credible beginning" to the handover of weapons.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking to BBC TV tonight in Vienna where he is attending a two-day EU Summit, said: "I wouldn't lay too much stress on one particular report.
"My view is very clear, the agreement that we negotiated in all its terms has to be implemented and has to be implemented by everybody."
The same IRA sources confirmed that a new leadership of the organisation had been elected, an apparent reference to the so-called seven-strong Army Council and 12-strong Executive.
The IRA convention was called to review all aspects of the current political situation, and not specifically to deal with decommissioning.
The political process in Northern Ireland has been deadlocked for months because unionists are reluctant to make any further progress without the destruction or disposal of some IRA guns or explosives.
The decision by the IRA leadership to rule out any movement on the weapons issue at this stage will be seen, especially by unionists, as a significant blow to the peace process.
But republicans have always insisted that there can be no handover of weapons which might be interpreted as an act of surrender by the IRA.
Despite the Good Friday Agreement none of the paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland has begun the process of decommissioning.
The clear indication from the IRA of its view on the weapons issue comes at a time when there is enormous anger and resentment among the republican rank and file over the lack of political progress since the Good Friday Agreement.
Despite the current difficulties surrounding the peace proces, the Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam has remained optimistic.
She has insisted that the "momentum is still there - slow, I agree, but people are still talking."
Dr Mowlam said it was crucial there was movement before Christmas, but she also insisted that decommissioning was an essential part of the agreement.
Given the IRA's position, the British and Irish Governments will have a lot of work to do in the next few days and weeks to keep the peace process on track.