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The BBC's Peter Hunt
"Decommissioning is the thorn in the side"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 23:27 GMT
IRA appoints arms go-between
Gen de Chastelain heads decommissioning body Gen de Chastelain heads decommissioning body

The IRA has appointed a representative to the International Body on Decommissioning headed by General John de Chastelain, and they are expected to meet within days.

The move, expected as part of a carefully choreographed sequence of announcements, came at the end of an historic day for Northern Ireland.

The new power-sharing executive met offically for the first time amid new-found optimism that the violence of the past was over. The statement paves the way for paramilitary disarmament, demanded by the unionists if the assembly is to continue.


We confirm that a representative has been appointed
The IRA
The IRA said: "On Wednesday 17 November the IRA leadership announced that following the establishment of the institutions agreed on Good Friday last year they would appoint a representative to enter into discussions with General John de Chastelain and the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

"We have since expressed our concerns at the conditional way the UUP have agreed to the establishment of the institutions.

"The implications of this serious development are being carefully considered. Despite this we will honour our commitment.

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"We confirm that a representative has been appointed to enter into discussions with the IICD."

The identity of the representative has not been revealed.

The statement was welcomed by a spokesman for the International Commission but he declined to make any further comment.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said: "It shows that on day one the IRA have kept their word and I think that augurs well for the future course of decommissioning which now has to unfold.

"As far as deadlines are concerned, and timetables, that really is a matter for General John de Chastelain. He heads up the commission, it's his job now to oversee this process and I'm content to leave it to him."

The Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon has also welcomed the IRA's appointment of a contact with the decommissioning body.

'More steps to go'

Mr Mallon said it was now up to General de Chastelain and his commission to resolve the matter of decommissioning.

The Arts and Culture Minister Michael McGimpsey has said the IRA's statement is an important step in the right direction.

He said: "There are more steps to go, there are more hurdles ahead. But I think this is an important, perhaps a crucial hurdle that we have got over tonight."

The move to appoint a representative was negotiated during former US Senator George Mitchell's 11-week review of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

The International Body on decommissioning was set up under the terms on the Good Friday Agreement. Its role is to oversee the decommissioning and destruction of terrorist weapons by May 2000.

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See also:
02 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland makes history
01 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Countdown to decommissioning move
19 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
UDP meets de Chastelain
21 Oct 99 |  Northern Ireland
Arms deadline will be met - de Chastelain

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