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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Taoiseach predicts IRA statement
Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern said he expects an IRA statement within days
An IRA statement is due to come "within days", Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has said.

Mr Ahern was speaking as Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness made his way to the United States to give briefings about Northern Ireland's political situation.

The visit comes amid growing media expectation that the IRA is about to issue a statement on its future.

Mr Ahern said he wanted to see the issue of decommissioning arms and explosives "fully dealt with."

"We want to see criminality and all of the issues - the targeting, procurement, the training - fully and comprehensively ended," he said.

"The only way that can be done is if the Provisional IRA move and instruct their volunteers to end the campaign that has gone on for years - we have to wait to see what happens."

Sinn Fein leaders have had meetings with the British and Irish prime ministers in recent days.

Martin McGuiness
Martin McGuiness is travelling to America

Mr McGuinness and party colleague Rita O'Hare left Dublin on Wednesday for trips to Washington and New York.

He will also meet President Bush's special envoy on Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss.

At Dublin Airport, Mr McGuinness would not be drawn on the anticipated IRA statement or when it might be delivered.

However, he said the political parties in Northern Ireland should be ready to face up to the "real challenges and real opportunities" which could lie ahead.

"The IRA has clearly indicated that they are involved in work, we need to give them space to complete that work," he said.

"I think from our perspective what we want to see is all of the other parties, whether it be the unionist parties, the two governments, ourselves in Sinn Fein, facing up to what will be the real challenges and real opportunities that can lie ahead."

Prime Minister Tony Blair said that there needed to be a "definite end" to all violence.

"The only way we can make progress is on the basis that there are exclusively democratic and peaceful means employed by everybody," he said at a joint news conference with the Turkish premier on Wednesday.

"It always has been our desire to get the institutions back up and running in Northern Ireland but the key to that is the embracing, fundamentally and irreversibly, of peaceful and democratic means."

The Sinn Fein visit to the United States comes a day after the Irish Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, said he believed Mr McGuinness and party colleagues Gerry Adams and Martin Ferris had left the IRA army council.

Mr McDowell said he did not think it "by itself amounts to a severance between the two organisations".

However, he said it was important as it acknowledged structured links between them.

The three men have always denied being members of the IRA army council.






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