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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 14:22 GMT
Arms find 'significant'
Police arms seizure
Police recovered firearms and bomb-making equipment
The discovery of an arms cache in Belfast is "potentially a very significant development", Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has said.

The police said a large arms cache discovered in south Belfast at the weekend was under the control of the Provisional IRA.

A 42-year-old man and a 33-year-old man are expected to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court on Tuesday charged with arms and explosives offences in relation to the find.

A third man who was being questioned was released without charge on Monday.

On Monday, Mr Trimble said the chief constable must say what type of weapons they were, the country of origin and the date of manufacture.

Addressing the Sinn Fein leadership he said: "What is going on? What are you up to? You tell us you want to pursue peace and politics so why is this happening?"

These matters are serious in themselves, but we await the police report
Brian Cowen
Irish foreign affairs minister

The arms, found at Essex Street off the lower Ormeau Road, included six handguns, an assault rifle, timer power units and a "very large" quantity of ammunition.

'Await police report'

Speaking in Dublin, Secretary of State Paul Murphy said he wanted to see the police reports on the seizure.

"But we want a decommissioning of weapons, we want an end to paramilitary activity, we want an act of completion on the part of the IRA," he said.

"But what we are also doing as governments is to ensure that we have acts of completion across the board."

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen said: "These matters are serious in themselves, but we await the police report."

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he did not believe the seizure would set the political process back.

He said people should "not get into a tizzy" over the find and said he did not know if it was linked to the IRA.

"There are obviously arms dumps out there. That the arms aren't being used I think is a significant factor."

He said the challenge was to get the process back on the rails.

'Evidence'

Superintendent Ken Deane said the find was significant.

"What we have is a mixture of firearms, ammunition and bomb-making equipment and components.

He added: "At this stage, we have reason to believe that this is mainstream Provisional IRA equipment, and the find is being attributed to that organisation," he said.

Handguns
Handguns were among the weapons found

The Democratic Unionist Party has said that the arms find linked to the IRA was proof the paramilitary group was still active.

The DUP's Nigel Dodds said the find was evidence of continuing IRA activity.

He said lives had been saved by the seizure.

Mr Dodds, the MP for North Belfast, said it proved the IRA's ceasefire was "bogus".




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's political correspondent Gareth Gordon:
"David Trimble says there are questions for the Sinn Fein leadership"



SEE ALSO:
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18 Mar 03 |  Northern Ireland
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03 Mar 03 |  Northern Ireland
Republicans' secret negotiations
23 Jan 03 |  Northern Ireland


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