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Tuesday, November 16, 1999 Published at 13:17 GMT

UK: Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein: Guns deadlock will end

Key statements from Gerry Adams and David Trimble

Sinn Fein has given its clearest indication yet that one of the main sticking points in the Northern Ireland peace process, paramilitary disarmament, will be resolved.

[ image:  ]
In a keynote statement, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: "All parties have an obligation to help bring decommissioning about. Sinn Fein is committed to discharging our responsibilities in this regard."

The statement by Mr Adams came just two hours after the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, committed his party to reaching agreement on an inclusive power-sharing government for Northern Ireland.

Mr Trimble and the Sinn Fein president, in a rare show of unanimity, also expressed "deep regret" for the suffering endured by both communities.

The statements were part of a careful step by step approach, which seems to indicate that the Northern Ireland peace process may be breaking free of the deadlock surrounding the issue of paramilitary weapons.

An IRA statement is expected later this week, and is expected to endorse the Sinn Fein strategy.

The BBC's Denis Murray: "The parties have taken further steps towards agreement"
In his prepared remarks, Mr Adams stressed that decommissioning must be voluntary in the context of the overall peace accord. But the Sinn Fein president said that he believed the issue would be "finally and satisfactorily" settled by the independent arms body.

The Search for Peace
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Link to Sinn Fein
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In an echo of Mr Trimble's speech, Mr Adams said Sinn Fein was "totally committed" to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

"It is an unprecedented opportunity to start afresh. An opportunity to put behind us the failures, the tragedy and the suffering of the past.

"There is no doubt that we are entering into the final stages of the resolution of the conflict."

He insisted his party had a "total and absolute commitment" to "exclusively peaceful and democratic means".

[ image: Gerry Adams: Arms deal important]
Gerry Adams: Arms deal important
He also condemned all violence for any political purpose, including punishment attacks.

Mr Adams also said the Sinn Fein leadership was confident the IRA was committed to the objective of a permanent peace.

He said that the establishment of an effective political alternative would remove the potential for conflict.

"That conflict must be for all of us now a thing of the past, over, done with and gone."

In an unusual move, Mr Adams did not appear in person to deliver his remarks, and the statement was simply issued to the media.

'Era of tolerance'

In his comments, Mr Trimble urged still sceptical members of his party to back a compromise to implement the Good Friday Agreement on a devolved government.

"There is now a chance to create a genuine partnership between unionists and nationalists in a novel form of government," he said.

Mr Trimble emphasised that progress depended on a "genuine and meaningful response" to the body on the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.

He said nationalists had the right to seek a united Ireland but only through peaceful means.

[ image: David Trimble: New era of tolerance]
David Trimble: New era of tolerance
Mr Trimble said: "It is our belief that the establishment of new political institutions and the disarmament of all paramilitary organisations will herald a new beginning for all sections of our people."

Mr Trimble did not spell out what a "genuine and meaningful response" entailed. But there has been speculation that the IRA may be preparing to appoint a go-between to start discussions on disarmament.

The Ulster Unionist leader said at Stormont that what the party needed was a "a new peaceful democratic society where political objectives are pursued solely through democratic means, free from the use or threat of force".

He said: "The Ulster Unionist Party recognises that it is legitimate for nationalists to pursue their political objective of a united Ireland by consent through exclusively peaceful and democratic means."

The BBC's Denis Murray: "The parties have taken further steps towards agreement"
The statements follow comments from former US senator George Mitchell, who is chairing a review of the peace process, in which he described talks between the parties as agonisingly close to a major breakthrough.

Within days, the IRA is expected to make a statement on disarmament and appoint a go-between to liaise with the international body set up to oversee the decommissioning of paramilitary arms in Northern Ireland.

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