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2001: Setback for NI peace process

The IRA has said it is withdrawing a proposal it made last week on putting its weapons beyond use.

In a statement the organisation blamed "the outright rejection" by the Ulster Unionists of the proposal.

It is unclear whether the IRA now intends to remain in contact with the body set up to oversee decommissioning.

A Unionist spokesman said the latest IRA move showed it was not interested in peace.

The IRA's statement comes after a one-day suspension of the assembly last weekend by Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid.

"We will emerge with a democratic settlement""

Mitchell McLaughlin, Sinn Fein spokesman

The suspension was intended to give the parties more time to resolve outstanding issues in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 including disarmament and policing.

A spokesman for the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, Mitchell McLaughlin said the suspension had precipitated the IRA's withdrawal of its arms proposal.

But republicans had not disengaged from the peace process, he added.

"I believe we will resolve these problems through the democratic process and that we will emerge with a democratic settlement," Mr McLaughlin said.

He called on the government to give republicans some positive political developments to respond to, rather than the negative signal sent by the suspension.

In Context
Weapons decommissioning has been a major stumbling block ever since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

The letter of the agreement did not demand decommissioning but unionists argued that the spirit of the deal did.

In October 2001 the de Chastelain Commission overseeing disarmament confirmed that the IRA had put some weapons "beyond use".

It was the first time that a republican group had ever disposed of weaponry in this way.

In July 2005 the IRA announced an end to its "armed struggle" after more than 30 years of violence and in September 2005 it confirmed it had destroyed all its weapons.

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