Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Friday, 5 September 2008 17:45 UK

DUP holds talks with UVF and UDA

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson described as positive the response to the talks

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson has met the leaderships of the loyalist paramilitary UVF and UDA.

The meeting comes amid government pressure on loyalist paramilitaries to decommission their weapons.

The DUP is also demanding the IRA 'army council' is disbanded before policing and justice powers can be devolved.

The DUP leader said the UDA and UVF's response to the talks was "positive". He said they discussed making violence and criminality "a thing of the past".

"These meetings represent an opportunity to engage and discuss the process of transition from paramilitary organisations to people playing a full part in a peaceful and democratic Northern Ireland," he said.

"All participants in these discussions acknowledged that the priority is to strengthen political stability, create economic and social prosperity and improve the wellbeing of the unionist and loyalist community.

"For our part we are determined to give leadership and encouragement to all those who want to play a part in a peaceful and prosperous future Northern Ireland and who are working to leave the ways of the past behind."

The talks took place on Thursday in Belfast, with Mr Robinson leading a DUP delegation including deputy leader Nigel Dodds and MPs Jeffrey Donaldson and Sammy Wilson.

According to BBC NI home affairs correspondent Vincent Kearney, the DUP has often been accused of failing to exert pressure on loyalist paramilitaries to decommission weapons.

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