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The BBC's Denis Murray
"Everyone else was caught on the hop"
 real 56k

The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"There's hope that progress has often come incrementally and where it has been least expected"
 real 56k

The BBC's Tom Coulter in Belfast
"Publicity stunt or not, it is movement, and it should help, I suppose, move the peace process forward"
 real 28k

Pat Doherty, vice-president, Sinn Fein
"What we have to do is change the political climate"
 real 28k

Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 14:16 GMT
IRA in contact with arms body

The IRA has said its representative has been in touch with General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body.

In a statement on Thursday, the IRA said the commission had been made aware of its intention to enter into what it called further discussions.

In an earlier statement, it said that if the new talks were to be successful, the government had to deliver on agreements made last May on the policing and demilitarisation issues.

The move came as Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern are holding talks with the Northern Ireland pro-agreement parties to try to break the political stalemate.

The talks follow weeks of intense negotiations aimed at breaking the deadlock over the issues of policing reform, IRA disarmament and demilitarisation.

John de Chastelain:
John de Chastelain: Heads the decommissioning body
These issues are threatening to destablise Northern Ireland's power-sharing institutions.

Earlier on Thursday, the IRA said it had received a detailed briefing on the recent intensive political talks.

The IRA said the government position "was unacceptable" but that it remained committed to "the quest for a lasting peace".

Last week, Mr Ahern said that an interim deal may be all that could be achieved before the parties and Mr Blair turn their attention to the General Election.

Such a deal could include the IRA re-engaging with the Independent International Decommissioning Commission to discuss arms, movement from the British Government on demilitarisation, and the Ulster Unionists dropping sanctions on Sinn Fein.

The idea of round-table talks, put forward by SDLP leader John Hume, was only agreed after days of negotiation.

The Ulster Unionists want progress on IRA decommissioning and recently stepped up sanctions on Sinn Fein's attendance of North-South Ministerial Council meetings to put pressure on republicans.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the role of the decommissioning body is to monitor, review and verify progress on decommissioning of illegal arms and to report to both the UK and Irish governments at regular intervals.

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See also:

06 May 00 | Northern Ireland
IRA arms offer
03 Dec 99 | Northern Ireland
The general who likes to destroy weapons
08 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Talks to revive NI peace process
08 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA move 'is progress of a sort'
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