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Tuesday, October 26, 1999 Published at 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Trimble urges paramilitaries to change

George Mitchell has given the parties more time

Northern Ireland's First Minister David Trimble says there is still a need for republican and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland to show they have changed.

He was speaking at Stormont after addressing a conference of women working at senior level in the health service.

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Mr Trimble said a deal had to be worked out on decommissioning, before there could be a political agreement on the setting up of a new executive.

He said:"The hope that we want to see realised is that we'll have a future entirely free of violence and the threat of violence.

"In order to be sure that is going to happen, we need the paramilitaries and the parties that speak for them to move decisively to show that is in the past. To address the question of weapons and to show they have begun in a credible way to dismantle them."

Earlier the leader of the loyalist Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) said it was up to republicans to take the first step to settle the decommissioning issue.

Gary McMichael, whose party has links with paramilitary groups, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), said he was optimistic about the prospects of an assembly executive being formed.

[ image: Gary McMichael: Optimistic about prospects of assembly being formed]
Gary McMichael: Optimistic about prospects of assembly being formed
But he insisted the time had come to implement the Good Friday agreement.

'Loyalists have the commitment'

He was speaking in New York on the eve of a meeting with the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

Mr McMichael, whose father was murdered by republican paramilitaries in 1991, said: "We want to let interested people in America know that the commitment is there on the part of loyalists to do that.

"But in order for that to happen the conditions have to be correct and those conditions are that the community as a whole is clear that the option of physical force has been removed from the equation."

Meanwhile, talks between the pro-agreement parties have resumed, before former US senator George Mitchell arrives back in the province on Wednesday to continue his review of the workings of the Good Friday agreement.

After seven weeks of talks, Mr Mitchell has granted the parties more time to find a way to break the impasse.

Mr Mitchell was brought in to chair the review in July and is currently preparing proposals to help the parties find a resolution.

Ulster Unionists are demanding the decommissioning of arms before a devolved government is set up, but Sinn Fein says the agreement does not require decommissioning before the formation of an executive.

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