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Tuesday, 11 September, 2001, 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
Mitchell urges political leadership
George Mitchell
Mr Mitchell made his comments in New York
Former Northern Ireland peace talks mediator, George Mitchell has said the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations is an "explicit part" of the Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking in New York on Monday, the man who chaired negotiations which brought about the 1998 peace accord said he was confident the Northern Ireland peace process could survive.

In a message to paramilitary organisations in the province, Mr Mitchell said: "The negotiations were based upon a report which I and two other international representatives authored.

"It required all of the political parties to commit themselves to it. Those principles stated clearly and explicitly total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations."

He also said that political leadership was vital for the process to succeed.

I think most people in both communities want their difficulties sorted out by peaceful democratic processes, not by bombs and bullets

George Mitchell

The former US senator said he believed that people in the province did not wish to return to conflict but that the current dispute in north Belfast showed there remained an element of sectarian hatred in society here.

"I think most people in both communities want their difficulties sorted out by peaceful democratic processes, not by bombs and bullets," he said. He added that all sides in the process must concentrate on the three "outstanding issues" of decommissioning, policing and demilitarisation.

Speaking at a lecture in St Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Manhattan, Mr Mitchell said bitter sectarian rhetoric continued in Northern Ireland, three and a half years after the Agreement was ratified.

'Complete package'

"Today there remain very difficult issues of implementation, as anyone who has seen a newspaper or seen the television news in the last week can attest.

"Despite the continuing difficulty of implementation, I believe that the path to peace has been irreversibly set."

Mr Mitchell emphasised that the Agreement was a complete package and could not be "implemented selectively".

George Mitchell
George Mitchell: "Agreement is not selective"

"The Good Friday Agreement contains a lot of recommendations and is a single entity," he said.

"Integral to the premise of the agreement was that it has to be implemented in full. It was not a selective agreement.

"There are three major issues - decommissioning of weapons, policing and demilitarisation. There has to be progress on all of them.

"People do not want to go back but they do not want to give in. The challenge for all political leaders is to reconcile these conflicting demands."

Mr Mitchell was speaking ahead of the visit of Richard Haass, the new American administration's special envoy to Northern Ireland, to the province for talks with the political parties on the peace process.

Northern Ireland's devolved institutions will collapse on September 22 if no first minister or deputy first minister are elected.




See also:

12 Nov 99 | Northern Ireland
Mitchell adjourns NI peace talks
23 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Mitchell 'encouraged' by poll results
27 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Clinton 'optimistic' about peace in NI
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