Tuesday, November 9, 1999 Published at 19:14 GMT
UK: Northern Ireland
IRA statement 'on talks table'
It is believed an IRA statement is on the table
A statement from the IRA is understood to have been placed before politicians trying to negotiate a breakthrough in Northern Ireland's stalled peace process.
It comes after republicans dismissed weekend speculation that the IRA was preparing to disarm.
The parties have been trying to reach agreement over the issues of paramilitary disarmament and the establishment of an assembly executive in the province.
Talks at Castle Buildings in Stormont adjourned on Tuesday evening and will resume on Wednesday.
"Any statement from the IRA would be a crucial piece in a bigger jigsaw which could involve words from unionists, loyalists, the head of the decommissioning body, General de Chastelain, and governments," he said.
"The suggestion is that any deal would be a process - a series of incremental steps by both unionists and republicans over a period of several weeks.
He added that it was understood the statement had not satisfied the Ulster Unionists.
The deputy leader of the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said he did not believe a statement would be enough to solve the issue because the unionist community wanted to see weapons being handed over.
But chief negotiator for the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party David Ervine said he believed the IRA had made a statement and that the move showed an engagement many people never believed possible.
He said: "George Mitchell is as we speak trying to close the gap. I believe that that gap is nearly there.
"It would be criminal that if this gaps is as close as it seems to be, if we can't close it."
Afterwards, senior Ulster Unionist negotiator Michael McGimpsey said the central issue was still unresolved, but asked people to be patient as the negotiations continued "in good faith".
Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said time was "getting very short".
"The issue is becoming more and more urgent. The outcome of all of this for Sinn Fein is that we do get agreement on the setting up of the political institutions and that will be the litmus test of the work that we've been involved in over the last 10 weeks," he said.
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said he believed an "unbreakable peace" was within the grasp of the politicians.
David Trimble and Gerry Adams are under mounting pressure to find a way to move the agreement forward as Mr Mitchell hopes to draw his ten week-long review to a close.
Ulster Unionists are refusing to sit in an assembly executive with Sinn Fein before the IRA begins to decommission its illegal weaponry.
Republicans say that this is not a pre-condition in the agreement signed by the parties in April 1998.