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Tuesday, March 23, 1999 Published at 19:30 GMT

UK Politics

Hume urges IRA 'hand in explosives'

Tony Blair (left) was due to meet Bertie Ahern on Tuesday

The IRA is being urged to begin handing in some of its explosives by SDLP leader John Hume.

The Search for Peace
Mr Hume's calls for a token gesture to end the deadlock over decommissioning come as all sides in the peace process are engaging each other in talks ahead of the 2 April deadline for the transfer of power from Westminster to the province.

The devolution of power, one of the key components of the Good Friday Agreement, is being held-up by while unionists and republicans prove unable to agree on the handing in of terrorist arms.

'End to weapons'

Mr Hume's remarks come after a meeting between Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble produced no further progress.

Both sides ended the hour-long discussion accusing each other of being inflexible.

[ image: John Hume: Calling for a token gesture]
John Hume: Calling for a token gesture
Mr Hume made his call to the IRA after a 50 minute-meeting between his party and the head of the Decommissioning Commission General John de Chastelain.

Mr Hume called for the "total and absolute end to all weaponry of all descriptions".

He added: "Obviously, we understand the psychology of all this but we think that - as we have said repeatedly - that a gesture would be very helpful particularly in the Semtex field.

"We spelt out very clearly that if a load of Semtex was left on a hillside and General de Chastelain was told where it was - that would obviously be very helpful but that's the suggestion we have made."

Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness also met the general but repeated his party's line that they could not deliver a handover of IRA weapons ahead of devolution and the formation of the executive.

For his part, First Minister David Trimble said he believed that republicans could deliver a handover of weapons but they were choosing not to.

"We are dealing here with the refusal here to carry through what everybody else recognises to be necessary and they know that this is recognised by others because they have been told by London, by Dublin that this is something that has to happen and indeed John Hume has reiterated the need for movement."

[ image: Gerry Adams: Sinn Fein 'cannot deliver decommissioning']
Gerry Adams: Sinn Fein 'cannot deliver decommissioning'
Mr Adams said: "I have to say on the basis of our most recent discussions that Mr Trimble does not want to know anything other than the absolutist position adopted by himself or his party."

An earlier meeting between Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Mr Adams also made no further progress in the attempt to end the decommissioning deadlock.

Mr Ahern and Mr Adams met for 40 minutes at Dublin airport before the Irish premier left for Shannon and a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who was stopping there to refuel on a transatlantic flight.

The airport talks were held in advance of a meeting in Berlin later on Tuesday between UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Taoiseach who are due at the Special European Council.

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