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IRA cuts contact with weapons body
( 2002-10-31 17:05 ) (7 )

The Irish Republican Army says it has cut off contact with the international body responsible for overseeing the decommissioning of its weapons.

The IRA said it had taken the decision to stop co-operating with the body because the British Government had not kept its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.

In a statement issued through the republican newspaper An Phoblacht, the IRA said it remained "committed to the search for a just and lasting peace."

Britain suspended Northern Ireland's power-sharing government two weeks ago after allegations of IRA espionage threw the peace process into crisis. (Full story)

The IRA said in its statement that the British Government was responsible for the current political crisis.

"Despite this, the British Government says that the responsibility for this present crisis and its resolution lies with us and there is an effort to impose unacceptable and untenable ultimatums on the IRA," the statement said.

"At the same time the British Government, by its own admission, has not kept its commitments.

"The IRA, therefore, has suspended contact with the IICD (Independent International Commission on Decommissioning).

"The onus is on the British Government and others to create confidence in this process. They can do this by honouring their obligations."

It is not the first time the IRA has broken off contact with General John de Chastelain's group.

Four days after former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson suspended the Stormont Assembly in February 2000, the IRA announced they would no longer co-operate with the body.

But a month after Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble agreed to re-enter power-sharing government with Sinn Fein in May 2000, arms inspectors Cyril Ramaphosa and Martti Ahtisaari revealed they had been taken to IRA dumps.

Since then the IRA has undertaken two historic acts of decommissioning -- in October 2001 and then again in April this year.

The British Government's Northern Ireland Office said after Wednesday's annoucement: "While not entirely surprising, since the IRA withdrew cooperation from the IICD after a previous suspension, this is none the less a matter for regret.

"But the Prime Minister has indicated that the issue now goes beyond decommissioning. He has made it clear that all paramilitary action must end for the political process to succeed."

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble said the IRA move justified suspension of the Stormont Assembly.

"It has been obvious for months that the IRA has not been making progress on decommissioning," he said.



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