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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
IRA 'to intensify talks' on arms
IRA has withdrawn decommissioning scheme proposal
IRA has withdrawn decommissioning scheme proposal
The IRA has said it is to intensify talks with the decommissioning body in an effort to deal with the issue of arms.

In a statement, the IRA leadership also insisted it sent no-one to Colombia to train or engage with any group.

Following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington last week, the IRA also extended sympathy to the people of the United States.

In the statement which will appear in Thursday's edition of An Phoblacht/Republican News, the provisional movement said its representative in talks with the decommissioning body was prepared to engage in more detailed discussions.

'Resolution'

The statement said: "This dialogue is within the context of our commitment to deal satisfactorily with the question of arms.

"It is with a view to accelerating progress towards the comprehensive resolution of this issue."

On 8 August, the IRA agreed a scheme with the international decommissioning commission for putting arms beyond use.


It is a cynical PR stunt designed to make the IRA and the republican movement look good

Nigel Dodds, DUP

But it later withdrew what it described as an "historic" offer after unionists rejected a report by the head of the commission, Canadian General John de Chastelain.

His analysis that the IRA had entered into a decommissioning process was rejected by the Ulster Unionist Party and DUP because no timescale was agreed.

The UK Government accused the IRA of playing into the hands of sceptics of the peace process by the withdrawal.

Colombia arrests

In the latest statement, the IRA said political progress would be directly influenced by the attitude of other parties and the British Government to its latest move.

The statement added: "The IRA's commitment is without question.

"However, as we have said before, peace making and peace keeping is a collective effort.

General de Chastelain:
General de Chastelain: Confirmed method
"It is our considered view that the Irish peace process can succeed."

The arrest of three IRA suspects in Colombia accused of handling drugs and explosives has also added to the sense of crisis in the peace process.

In its statement the IRA said there had been "a lot of ill-founded and mischievous speculation" about the arrests of James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly.

"We wish to make it clear that the Army Council sent no-one to Colombia to train or to engage in any military cooperation with any group," it said.

On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern reaffirmed their commitment to the package of proposals aimed at breaking the impasse, which was put to the parties following talks in Staffordshire in July.

A spokesman for the Irish Government said it looked forward to an early and comprehensive resolution of the arms issue following the latest move by the IRA.

'Panic'

But the IRA statement was branded "nauseating" by Democratic Unionist Party MP Nigel Dodds.

"It is a cynical PR stunt designed to make the IRA and the republican movement look good as we run up to the weekend and as the international community focuses in the actions of terrorists," said Mr Dodds.

He also claimed that the IRA's message of sympathy to the victims of the US terror attacks was hypocritical.

A spokesman for the Ulster Unionist Party repeated warnings that the IRA would face further penalties if they did not begin emptying their arms dumps.

He also accused the IRA of lying over the arrests in Colombia and their links to the Farc rebels.

"The IRA denials over Colombia are clear evidence of panic in their ranks at the international backlash against terrorism," he said.

Deal deadline

Chairman of the nationalist SDLP, Alex Attwood, said all paramilitaries would be judged on "actual progress on the putting of weapons completely and verifiably beyond use".

Under the current legislation, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid created another six-week period during which the parties could come to agreement on the issues blocking the political process - policing, IRA decommissioning and British government demilitarisation.

If the parties do not reach a deal by 22 September, Dr Reid could opt for an open-ended suspension of the institutions followed by a review, or for a second short suspension of the assembly.

Either option would avoid the total collapse of the Stormont government.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Denis Murray in Belfast
"It says its representative will intensify engagement with the international decommissioning body"
Mitchel McLaughlin, Chairman of Sinn Fein
"It is a reaffirmation of the IRA's commitment"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

FORUM

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

TEXTS/TRANSCRIPTS

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

20 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA statement in full: 19 September 2001
20 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Q&A: The IRA statement
18 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA warned about Colombia 'links'
20 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Poll result urges assembly elections
14 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA arms setback for peace process
12 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
NI talks gain six week reprieve
10 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein anger over suspension
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