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Monday, April 20, 1998 Published at 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK

Mitchell: 'Decommissioning is indispensible'
image: [ George Mitchell:
George Mitchell: "nothing is finally solved in this."

The former US Senator, George Mitchell, who chaired the Stormont talks, has told the BBC that paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland must give up their weapons if the peace agreement is to succeed.

He said that the issue of decommissioning had alway been a major part of the process and would continue to be so.

George Mitchell speaks on BBC Breakfast with Frost
"I think nothing is finally solved in this, it's going to take continuing effort. Decommissioning is an indispensable part of the negotiations," he told the Breakfast with Frost programme.

Mr Mitchell emphasised that the Stormont agreement was a package and none of the parties would be able to pick and choose which elements they wanted to support, although presentation of the agreement was a matter for them.

"The vote itself will be 'yes' or 'no' on the entire agreement," he said.

He said he was encouraged by the yes vote the Ulster Unionist Council had given the peace agreement. The vote was a vindication of David Trimble's leadership and determination to back the deal.

Mr Mitchell said he hoped Saturday's result would mean a yes vote in the May 22 referendum, but stressed that he was not complacent about the outcome.

"I have always felt the issue is in doubt, I don't think by any means it's assured yet, and I think it's important to have as large a vote as possible in favour of the agreement."

He hoped US President Bill Clinton would visit the province, but that Mr Clinton was right to defer on the timing of any visit to the British and Irish prime ministers and political leaders in Northern Ireland.

Unionists 'divided'

[ image: Willie Ross:
Willie Ross: "reject this whole mad concept"
William Ross, the Ulster Unionist MP for Londonderry East, who has been a staunch opponent of the Stormont agreement, said he believed unionists would come to rue the decision by the Ulster Unionist Council to back the deal.

The party was deeply divided at grassroots level over the deal, he said. Many people would change their views and the battle for public opinion was still "neck and neck".

Mr Ross said: "I resent people calling this a peace deal when it was very obviously a surrender to the violence of the IRA."

The Ulster Unionist Council had made a grave mistake in backing the deal agreed by his Mr Trimble.

"The truth is that the Ulster Unionist Council made very fundamental changes in the policy of the unionist party, indeed it might be true to say that there very fundamental changes in the philosophy of the Unionist Party in that we are now accepting that terrorist organisations' representatives who are elected will have the right to sit at the very heart of government."

Mr Ross said he hoped that in the forthcoming referendum, the people would reject "this whole mad concept that is now before us".

[ image: John Hume wants Sinn Fein to support the agreement]
John Hume wants Sinn Fein to support the agreement
The SDLP leader, John Hume, is urging all the political parties, including Sinn Fein, to make clear their support for the Stormont agreement.

"Obviously it's important that all parties would support this agreement," said Mr Hume. "The agreement is new thinking, and is very inclusive in its approach.

"It also makes clear that all parties who would be participating in this would be totally committed to peaceful and democratic methods and we want to see all sections of our community involved, because that will make this initiative work much more quickly."

Mr Hume added that the people both north and south of the border had a vital role to play by backing the deal in the coming referendum.

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