Parties set out stalls
Parties set out stalls

The Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble is seeking ``visible arms decommissioning'' from the IRA in the negotiations on a new peace deal.

Sinn Féin and Ulster Unionist delegations have met four times in the last two weeks as part of continuing efforts to broker a peace deal, and there is cautious optimism s that progress is being made.

It is thought that October 16th is the deadline for a resolution if there is to be a November 13th election to a restored Belfast Assembly. That date is preferred by the politicians because a later election would mean canvassers would be working in the dark.

Mr Trimble has told reporters that he wanted clear evidence that the IRA arms have been put beyond use, and said that he expected that this would be put in the public domain.

``This time any act of decommissioning has to be credible in the public's eye''.

He said he expected there to be physical evidence published. ``This time around it has to be more than words.''

He also repeated there had to be acts of completion from the IRA that were ``immediate and permanent''. He insisted that this would involve a statement the war was over, an end of all IRA activity and ``closure'' on the arms issue.

With negotiations still continuing, Mr Trimble said he was also at odds with the British government over some of the details of demilitarisation.

Responding to David Trimble's statement, Sinn Féin's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said that Mr Trimble was demanding something ``outside the terms of reference'' of the arms decommissioning body, set up as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

``I think everybody has to be very realistic and they have to understand that this isn't really a single item agenda,'' he said.

``I think there is a very unhealthy focus put on the responsibility of republicans when clearly there is a lot of work to be done by David Trimble around issues like the sustainability of the institutions.''


This week, the political focus was switching to Bournemouth in England today as politicians head for the annual conference of the British Labour Party.

Sinn Féin has sent the biggest team - Martin McGuiness, North Belfast representative Gerry Kelly and European election candidate Bairbre de Brun.

But Mr Adams will stey in Belfast, where he has hinted that the IRA is prepared to disband as part of a deal to reinstate the Belfast Assembly and the northern institutions.

In one of a series of newspaper interviews to promote his new book, Mr Adams said: ``If people ask: `When is the IRA going to go away?', the answer lies with the Taoiseach and the [British] prime minister and the unionist leadership, as well as with the IRA itself.''

Adams said the retirement of the IRA had been a long-term goal of Sinn Féin's peace process strategy.

``When I say that we want to bring an end to physical force republicanism, that clearly means bringing an end to the organisation or the vehicle of physical force republicanism.''

However, Adams also cautioned against expecting movement without reciprocation. ``I've already warned the governments this week that they shouldn't set the bar too high,'' he said. ``The governments need to be realistic and reasonable about what is doable.''

He said what was expected was the implementation of a a range of outstanding matters within the Good Friday Agreement, mentioning the transfer of power on policing and justice back to a Northern administration and reform of the Human Rights Commission.

Recounting that Martin McGuinness had been stopped by the British Army in Derry last week nine years after the IRA cessation, he said demilitarisation was also high on the agenda.

He also revealed what was being sought by the British government.

``On the other hand, what the governments are asking for is an end to the IRA and I suppose the continuation of the process of putting arms beyond use. I don't want to be unfair, maybe they're looking for slightly more, but I think that's the summary.

``We'll do our best on those matters, but there's no point in going near the IRA unless you have the other stuff totted up. On what basis are you going to appeal to them?

``Especially given the poisonous atmosphere that was created, not just by Tony Blair rejecting IRA initiatives, but also by the cancellation of the election.''

Mr Adams also pressed for commitments from the unionist side not to collapse the Assembly and the institutions.

``There needs to be nationalist and republican confidence in unionism. There need to be assurances that they'll sustain the institutions,'' he said.

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