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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
IRA statement branded 'cynical'
IRA has not put forward decommissioning timetable
IRA has not put forward decommissioning timetable
The IRA's statement saying it is to intensify talks with the arms decommissioning body has been greeted with scepticism by unionist and nationalist politicians.

Published in the republican newspaper An Phoblacht on Thursday, the IRA leadership's statement 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.

The IRA said its representative in talks with the decommissioning body was prepared to engage in more detailed discussions, however, it made no mention about when it intended to disarm.

There was also no offer to reinstate the disarmament scheme it agreed with the international decommissioning commission in August, which it later withdrew, after unionist criticism.

And it repeated that any move on arms would be dependent on political developments.

Political deadline

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble met Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams privately at Stormont to discuss the peace process on Thursday morning.

However, the Ulster Unionists are maintaining that only a move on decommissioning will unblock the political process, which is facing another crucial deadline at midnight on Saturday.

Ulster Unionist Culture Minister
Michael McGimpsey: "Panicked statement from IRA"

If the parties can not agree a last minute deal on IRA decommissioning, policing and British Government demilitarisation, Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid will be faced with three possible courses of action.

He could again suspend the assembly for a short period or suspend the assembly indefinitely and start a review of the deadlocked process.

The other alternative under the current legislation would be to call an assembly election.

'Panicked statement'

Reacting to the IRA statement, Ulster Unionist Culture Minister Michael McGimpsey said it was "not enough for us to prevent the suspension of our institutions" and see the process slide into a review period.

DUP leader leader
Peter Robinson: "Attempt to avoid anti-terrorism backlash"
The current political crisis was triggered by David Trimble's resignation as the province's first minister because of the IRA's refusal to disarm.

Mr McGimpsey added that he did not believe any of the three points of the IRA statement which he said was issued because the organisation was "panicked by the worldwide anti-terrorism feeling".

Deputy leader of the anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party Peter Robinson said the IRA was making it clear they would not hand over their weapons unless they got something in return.

"This is the IRA once again seeing if they can bluff Tony Blair and others into letting them off the hook. The world is about to turn on international terrorism.

"The IRA is part of that international terrorist network."

SDLP junior minister
Sean Farren: "IRA movement has been almost imperceptible"
Sean Farren of the nationalist SDLP said that the statement was "intended to convey a sense of movement" when the reality was, that during the two years the IRA had been talking to the arms body, progress towards decommissioning had been "almost imperceptible".

"This has contributed to the erosion of trust between the parties who are trying to implement the Good Friday Agreement," he added.

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern said the IRA statement did not go far enough.

Mr Ahern told journalists in Ennis that while he welcomed the statement, it was only a step.

He called on the IRA to put its proposals for putting weapons out of use back on the table.

However, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said the IRA statement was "another very significant unilateral initiative by the IRA".

FARC link denied

The IRA's statement on the arrest of three IRA suspects by the Colombian authorities came after the US envoy to Northern Ireland Richard Haass warned that if the IRA did not sever all links with the FARC there would be "potentially serious consequences for the role of the United States in the peace process".

The republican movement has traditionally received much of its financial and moral support from the US.

The IRA statement claimed there had been "a lot of ill-founded and mischievous speculation" about the arrests of James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly in Colombia.

"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.

The BBC's Denis Murray in Belfast
"It says its representative will intensify engagement with the international decommissioning body"
BBC NI chief security correspondent Brian Rowan
analyses the latest IRA statement
Irish Americans tell BBC NI's Gareth Gordon
attitudes to Sinn Fein and Irish republican fundraising have been affected by the US terror attacks

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough


Loyalist ceasefire





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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