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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Arms body expects further IRA moves
The body overseeing the destruction of paramilitary arms has said it expects to have another meeting with the IRA in the near future.
The news came as a war of words intensified between the two shades of unionism over whether the IRA's arms gesture was genuine.
On Tuesday, the IRA confirmed it had put some arms beyond use.
But the Democratic Unionist leader, Ian Paisley, said there was not a shred of evidence that republicans had destroyed their weapons.
On Friday, he warned against British Army demilitarisation without hard evidence of the IRA move.
The Ulster Unionists and DUP have produced rival versions of private conversations they had with General John de Chastelain, who heads the International Commission on Decommissioning.
The general still has not spoken publicly about the decommissioning gesture by the IRA which he witnessed.
But, according to a document released by the DUP, the general said he did not know where he was when he weighed and handled IRA explosives.
He is said to have told them: "I cannot tell you in what country it took place. It could either have been in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland or Scotland."
Extracts from DUP meeting
DUP: How long were you present at the event for?
De Chastelain: More than one minute but less than 12 hours.
DUP: How many arms were decommissioned?
De Chastelain: I cannot tell you but ideally this should have been made public.
DUP: Would more decommissioning take place?
De Chastelain: I do not know but I am in the process of arranging to meet the IRA's representative again for a meeting. Whether that leads to another event, I cannot say.
DUP: Was there any timetable for decommissioning?
De Chastelain: I have not received any timetable for decommissioning.
DUP: What happened when you finished observing the event?
De Chastelain: We left the area.
DUP: So you left the site and its contents in the charge of the IRA. Could the process have been reversed after you left?
De Chastelain: It was my judgment that it could not.
The document said the delegation was astounded that David Trimble had recommended his party re-enter the executive and that the British Government and chief constable were proceeding with demilitarisation "on the basis of an unspecified event".
Meanwhile, the arms body told Ulster Unionists it had no indication that this week's IRA arms gesture was a one-off event.
General de Chastelain said he had verified that the weapons put beyond use by the IRA were genuine.
In the extract, the general said he and his decommissioning body colleagues handled and inspected the IRA's arms, ammunition and explosives before they were put beyond use.
UUP transcript of meeting
General de Chastelain: The three of us have witnessed an event which complies with the decommissioning legislation and regulations. We are all satisfied that the process renders the materials permanently unusable or unavailable.
David Trimble (UUP leader): You are quite satisfied with that?
De Chastelain: Yes, we would not have said so otherwise.
Trimble: Can we say that the material has been rendered permanently unavailable or unusable? There has been speculation that the dumps would be sealed with a concrete cap. It was a cap?
De Chastelain: We are not prepared to go into methodologies but it is not a cap. That would not meet the requirements. The method used does meet the requirements.
Trimble: The material - arms etc were significant....
De Chastelain: The event is significant. Since I have been here I have seen wall murals many times which say: `Not a bullet. Not an ounce.' I can assure you there is more than a bullet and an ounce but I cannot say how much. We can say, however, that we have taken inventories and it contains a range of materials.
Trimble: Downing Street have used the term substantial.
De Chastelain: We have made it clear to O'Neill (codename used for the IRA) that a lack of transparency makes things difficult but we want to get other events and don't want to create difficulties there. We will continue our engagement with O'Neill and expect our next meeting to be soon.
Trimble: Did you take any other evidence, photographs for example?
De Chastelain: No but I can tell you that we all handled the arms and weapons to check they were genuine, we counted them and the ammunition and we weighed the explosives.
Cooper: Can we say that having had this event and hoping for another meeting that this is a beginning of an ongoing process?
De Chastelain: Yes. If O'Neill had said this was a one-off event, we would have reported that. Far from it, we were given no such indication.
Ulster Unionist chairman James Cooper said his party had decided to release extracts from their minutes of the meeting with the commission in the wake of the DUP's claims that the act of disarmament was dubious.
"We view the DUP's attack on the IICD as belated and totally predictable. It is a desperate attempt by the DUP to throw sand into the air to cover their tracks as they return to government," he said.
Mr Cooper also claimed senior DUP figures were contradicting themselves on whether decommissioning had taken place.
"The reality is that the DUP know that decommissioning has started but they don't know how to deal with it."
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