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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 September 2005, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
IRA arms statement 'within days'
IRA gunman
The process of IRA decommissioning is in the spotlight
An announcement on IRA decommissioning is believed to be just days away and could come at the beginning of next week, the BBC has learned.

Statements are expected from the body overseeing decommissioning, two church witnesses, the IRA, as well as Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has said the expected announcement will be "more significant" than the 1994 ceasefire.

He is to brief Irish-American politicians on developments next week.

IRA disarmament is being overseen by an independent commission headed by Canadian General John de Chastelain.

BBC Northern Ireland security editor Brian Rowan said a meeting between the general and the IRA in July had started this latest process of decommissioning.

"The story of the end of IRA decommissioning is now only days away from being told," he said.

"Since the beginning of this month, all three decommissioning men - General de Chastelain, Andrew Sens and Tauno Nieminen - have been in Ireland to complete the job of putting the IRA's arms beyond use.

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness expects a significant announcement

"This will not be the photographed decommissioning demanded by the DUP last year, nor is there anything to suggest that the DUP nominated church witness - the Reverend David MCGaughey - will be involved.

"But, when he emerges to speak in the next few days, de Chastelain will have to be definitive. He will have to say that all IRA arms have been decommissioned."

In July, the IRA said it had formally ordered an end to its armed campaign and said it would pursue exclusively peaceful means.

The republican organisation said it would follow a democratic path ending more than 30 years of violence.

Martin McGuinness told the BBC's Inside Politics programme on Saturday that he believed the IRA would fulfil that commitment to complete disarmament.

"General de Chastelain, when he deliberates on all of this and explains to the world whatever work he is engaged in with the IRA, will then make an announcement which, I think, is even greater and maybe of much more significance, than the events of the summer of 1994 or even the July 28th statement," he said.

His comments came as Sinn Fein supporters gathered to mark 100 years of the party at a Rally for Irish Unity in Dublin.

Mr Adams told the rally that republicans must reach out to unionists.

"There is a huge onus on Irish republicans to find an accommodation with unionism," he said.

'On the Cusp'

On Friday, Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said Sinn Fein had made it clear to the Irish government that decommissioning would happen soon.

He was speaking after Taoiseach Bertie Ahern held his first formal meeting with Sinn Fein since the Northern Bank robbery last December.

Party leader Gerry Adams said: "We believe we are all on the cusp of a future... to see democratic and peaceful structures in place."

Mr Ahern said a verifiable act of decommissioning would put it up to unionism that they must work in partnership with nationalists.

DUP leader Ian Paisley has claimed the government had made a "secret deal" with the IRA to exclude the need for an arms witness acceptable to unionists.


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