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The BBC's Helen Callaghan
"Anything he says is dependent on the Ulster Unionist"
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The BBC's Gareth Gordon
"It's no bed of roses for David Trimble"
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Saturday, 20 November, 1999, 18:13 GMT
Denial over arms dispute
Sinn Fein leaders have outlined the party's position this week

A leading member of Sinn Fein has rejected suggestions that he has deviated from his party's position on decommissioning following remarks attributed to him in a newspaper.

Vice president Pat Doherty is quoted as saying he could not state with complete confidence that the IRA will voluntarily hand over weapons if power-sharing went ahead.

It prompted Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble to warned Sinn Fein not to try and double-cross him.

He also threatened to cancel a crucial meeting next week of his party's decision making council if there was any indication that Sinn Fein would not live up to its commitments.

Sinn Fein is not in the business of double-crossing anyone
Pat Doherty
That meeting is the vital next step in paving the way towards a devolved administration in Northern Ireland, with unionists and nationalists sharing power for the first time in a generation.

However, Sinn Fein moved swiftly to limit any damage caused by the news saying Mr Doherty, who is in the United States, had expressed "dismay and concern" over the way his remarks had been interpreted.

Mr Doherty also said he completely supported the party leadership.

The Search for Peace
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George Mitchell Profile
Link to Sinn Fein
Link to UUP
Link to Decommissioning

In a statement from America, he said: "Sinn Fein is not in the business of double-crossing or misleading anyone. Such a course of action would be disastrous. We are in the business of making peace.

"All of my remarks on this issue were clearly set in this context and in the context of the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in all its aspects, including decommissioning.

"Sinn Fein is committed to fully discharging all our responsibilities and obligations in this regard as set out in the Agreement."

He added that "half reported accounts, words of comments, taken out of context " had the potential to cause "enormous problems."

Asked about the report on Saturday, Mr Mr Trimble told the BBC: "Were Sinn Fein to continue to give the impression that they are going to double-cross me, I would cancel next Saturday's Ulster Unionist Council meeting.

Were Sinn Fein to continue to give the impression that they are going to double-cross me, I would cancel next Saturday's meeting
David Trimble
"There would be no question of going ahead if Sinn Fein people are making statements of that nature.

"If it turns out Sinn Fein was making statements in the United States that contradict the statements they have made here in Northern Ireland, and if these are not clearly and immediately repudiated, then obviously they have broken the understanding on which we are proceeding and we will act accordingly."

Leader of the United Kingdom Unionist Party Robert McCartney said it was clear from the report on Mr Doherty's remarks, and other comments said to have been made in the United States by Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris, that the IRA does not intend to decommission.

"I think Mr Trimble has made a fatal blunder if he thinks the IRA are going to disarm.

Peter Mandelson: Outlined timetable of events
"Once Sinn Fein are admitted into an executive and it is up and running then there is no way that either Mr Trimble or Mr Blair will pull the plug on it provided some form of mutated ceasefire continues."

Leader of the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party, Rev Ian Paisley claimed Mr Trimble was being "double-crossed" by Sinn Fein.

"Mr Trimble is now adopting the same attitude to the IRA and Sinn Fein as he condemned in Mo Mowlam - refusing to act when double dealing is exposed," he said.

The dispute emerged on the day Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson set out the steps to devolution which will be taken if the Ulster Unionists endorse the deal agreed this week by parties which favour the Good Friday Agreement.

In a speech delivered to the Women's Coalition annual conference, Mr Mandelson outlined how power would be passed from London to the elected Northern Ireland Assembly on 2 December.

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See also:
20 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Unionists face historic choice
18 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Mitchell statement in full
20 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Tireless campaigner for peace
19 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Trimble begins battle for party support
17 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
IRA statement signals new approach

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