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Tuesday, September 14, 1999 Published at 22:23 GMT 23:23 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Chastelain 'confident of success'

Weapons have become the process's major stumbling block

The man given the task of breaking the decommissioning deadlock in Northern Ireland says he is confident of success.

[ image: General de Chastelain has a hard task]
General de Chastelain has a hard task
But Canadian General John de Chastelain, speaking in Cambridge to the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, admitted it was becoming more difficult to maintain high levels of optimism.

All parties to the Good Friday Agreement undertook to work "constructively and in good faith" with Gen de Chastelain's commission and "to use any influence they may have" to decommission all paramilitary arms by May 2000.

General de Chastelain admitted it would be difficult to keep to the schedule but said "there is time to do what we have to do".

'Good reasons for optimism'

He told his audience of 25 UK MPs and Irish TDs: "From a logistical and planning point of view, and what has to be done, we can still achieve the target.

"While I have no political responsibility, there are very good reasons for my optimism that we can do it within the time-frame available."

Gen de Chastelain said: "A large number of people in Ireland, north and south, want to see an end to violence and the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms.

"And a considerable majority in the north, and a huge one in the south want the Good Friday agreement - which includes decommissioning - to work."

'Takes two to tango'

He warned: "All of us would like to see decommissioning take place, and as soon as possible.

"But the decision is not ours to make. It takes two to tango. Only the paramilitary groups themselves can decide when they will decommission their arms."

He said the commission had received "no phone calls yet" from either side. But he added: "We stand ready to respond when they do."

Neither side wants to disarm unilaterally and continuing mistrust - over issues such as the Orange Order marches - and pressure from hardliners makes it harder for the doves in both movements to decommission weapons.

But Gen de Chastelain said contact is being maintained with politicians and clergymen on both sides who have links with the paramilitaries and he said they also had regular conversations with security forces on both sides of the border.

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