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Thursday, October 21, 1999 Published at 20:56 GMT 21:56 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Arms deadline will be met - de Chastelain

General de Chastelain: Still time to meet decommissioning deadline

The head of the international decommissioning body has said he is still hopeful that the review of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland will be successful.

General John de Chastelain said he does not want to sound unrealistically optimistic but believes there is still time to meet the decommissioning of deadline of May 2000.

The Search for Peace
However, he said it was up to the political parties and paramilitary groups to move forward.

He said: "The point I keep making and I hope I can keep making it but I hope I don't have to keep on making it for too much longer is that there is still time for us to complete our task within the period allotted."

"Tomorrow is the period at which exactly seven months will remain between now and the end of the mandate given to us by the Good Friday Agreement and we hope and I would say we expect to be able to do that."

General de Chastelain: Still time for us to complete our task
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the role of the decommissioning body is to monitor, review and verify progress on decommissioning of illegal arms and to report to both the UK and Irish governments at regular intervals.

General de Chastelain's comments come as both unionists and nationalist politicians have been briefing their parties on the state of the Mitchell review, following several days of intense negotiations in London.

The main pro-Agreement parties are due to return to the review at Castle Buildings in Belfast on Friday.

The UK Government asked former US Senator George Mitchell to chair a review of the peace process in July after the Ulster Unionists refused to form a government with Sinn Fein because the IRA would not start decommissioning.

Sinn Fein say IRA decommissioning is not a precondition of the agreement.

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