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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 20:35 GMT 21:35 UK
SF 'must prove' peace commitment
IRA has not put forward decommissioning timetable
Sinn Fein must secure arms move from IRA, says Trimble
David Trimble has issued a warning to Sinn Fein that repubicans must act now to convince unionists they are totally committed to peace.

The Ulster Unionist leader made the statement after holding a private meeting with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams to discuss the current crisis in the political process at Stormont on Thursday morning.

Their meeting followed a statement by the IRA in which the organisation said it would intensify its contacts with the arms decommissioning body, but did not say when disarmament would start.

Mr Trimble said that the republican movement "must realise their failure to decommission, the revelations of their activities in Colombia and their visit to Turkey in support of Moslem fundamentalists meant that they no longer have any credibility with the unionist electorate".

David Trimble:
David Trimble: "Republicans have chance to prove their credibility"
"If the political process is to continue as it is, then republicans must act now to create the necessary credibility," he said.

Mr Trimble added that republicans now have a political mountain to climb to convince unionists that they are committed to peace.

The Ulster Unionist leader welcomed the IRA's decision to accelerate their engagement with the International Independent Commission on Decommissioning, but he said this must be followed by action.

Saturday deadline

He has maintained that only a move on IRA decommissioning will unblock the political process, which is facing another crucial deadline at midnight on Saturday

If the parties cannot 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.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
John Reid must make crucial peace process decision

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.

A US state department spokesman welcomed the IRA statement but he said the group now needed to take action.

He said while there had been some progress on the weapons issue, a start to actual decommissioning was now needed.

"No other single act would have a greater impact on the other parties and the prospects for the peace process" said the official.

Refusal to disarm

The current political crisis was triggered by Mr Trimble's resignation on 1 July as the province's first minister because of the IRA's refusal to disarm.

Mr Trimble added that it was "a lie to say that the Ulster Unionist leadership greeted the last IICD report with outright rejection".

In that report, the arms body confirmed in August that the IRA had agreed a method for putting its arms beyond use.

Bertie Ahern called on IRA to make further move
Bertie Ahern called on IRA to make further move
However, the offer was withdrawn after it was given only a cautious welcome by the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP and was dismissed outright by the anti-Agreement DUP.

Reacting to the IRA's latest statement, Irish Premier Bertie Ahern said it did not go far enough and he called on the organisation to put its proposals for putting weapons out of use back on the table.

Published in the republican newspaper An Phoblacht on Thursday, the IRA leadership's statement insisted it had sent no-one to Colombia to train or engage with any group.

It followed a warning this week from US envoy to Northern Ireland Richard Haass that if the IRA did not sever all links with the Colombian leftist rebel group FARC there would be "potentially serious consequences for the role of the United States in the peace process".

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

Broad scepticism

The statement was greeted with scepticism by unionist and nationalist politicians. Only Sinn Fein said it was "significant".

Ulster Unionist Culture Minister Michael McGimpsey said the IRA issued the statement because it was "panicked by the worldwide anti-terrorism feeling".

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

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".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
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

Background

Loyalist ceasefire

FORUM

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

TEXTS/TRANSCRIPTS

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

20 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA statement branded 'cynical'
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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