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The BBC's David Eades
"I think reaction will come pretty quickly"
 real 56k

BBC NI chief security correspondent, Brian Rowan
There is no advance on the IRA position in this statement - but its timing is signficant
 real 28k

Ulster Unionist arts minister Michael McGimpsey
The IRA statement appears to be an excuse for not delivering its promises
 real 28k

Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly
"It's important the IRA re-iterates the commitments it made last May"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 20:36 GMT
Peace process waiting game
IRA mural
IRA says it has honoured its pledges
By BBC Northern Ireland's chief security correspondent, Brian Rowan

A week to go before President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair arrive in Belfast and there is a move from the IRA.

Not a move which advances its position on decommissioning, but a move which re-states what it first outlined back in May.

Then the IRA claims a deal was done with the British Government - a deal it says Tony Blair has not honoured.

In return for commitments on policing, demilitarisation and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the IRA set a context in which it said it would "initiate a process which would completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use."

There would also be renewed contact with General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body.

But, seven months later, not one gun has been "put beyond use" and the contact with the general amounts to one telephone call.

According to the IRA, the government is to blame - the Patten report on policing has not been fully implemented and promises on scaling down the security presence have been broken.

Not so, says the government. It points to the closure of more than 30 security bases and the withdrawal of 3,000 soldiers.

Troop levels are at their lowest point since the early 1970s.

'No magic wand'

But republicans want "in your face" demilitarisation, particularly in south Armagh - an area still monitored from the sky and from hilltop watch towers.

But no-one on the security side is suggesting that a magic wand is about to be waved and those towers will disappear.

Security change in south Armagh will be gradual and based on an assessment of the terrorist threat.

Dissident republican activity has increased in recent weeks and while the mainstream IRA holds onto its weapons, its capability to engage in violence remains.

Sinn Fein also wants "amending legislation" to bring the recent Police Act into line with Chris Patten's recommendations.

So there are the arguments and the demands.

Who will move first? The IRA is insisting that if a process of putting arms beyond use is to be realised then it's over to the government and the security forces.

There are efforts to piece together a deal in time for the President's visit. But there are big problem issues and nothing is guaranteed.

A week can be a long time in politics, but will it be long enough to achieve something that will breathe new life into the peace process?

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See also:

03 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Trimble appeal for Clinton support
30 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Clinton may get new peacemaker role
02 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Devolution's turbulent year
02 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
NI policing plan 'being revised'
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