Report: IRA Isn't Disarming

The international body appointed to oversee the destruction of terrorist weapons said in its latest report that no IRA arms had been handed over, reports CBS News' Trevor Birney.

Coming after the resignation of David Trimble as leader of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government, it only adds to the current political crisis.

Last month saw some of the worst rioting in Northern Ireland's capital Belfast for several years, with police using plastic bullets to quell one outbreak.

Britain has beefed up its military presence in the province by sending in an extra 1,600 troops to help police at the height of the Protestant "marching season" this month.

However, the independent disarmament commission said the IRA had made assurances that it would put its weapons beyond use, but only if the British government honored promises to pull its troops out of Northern Ireland and close military bases.


Reuters
Trimble was in London Monday for meetings with British government officials.

The commission said the IRA's "conditional commitment" had been made in good faith, and indicated that talks with the group would continue.

The British prime minister, Tony Blair, described the report as "disappointing."

No one in Northern Ireland is surprised by this report, reports Birney. What should be done with IRA weapons has been the major stumbling block in this peace process.

Trimble, a pro-British Protestant, quit as first minister of Northern Ireland's fledgling coalition government on Sunday in a bid to put pressure on the IRA to start scrapping the arsenals it had used in a long war — now halted — against British rule.

The commission, headed by Canadian General John Chastelain, said there had been no disarmament — known as decommissioning in the jargon of the peace process — by the IRA, or by its main Protestant "loyalist" foes, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Freedom Fighters.

"We must report that no decommissioning by the IRA, the UVF and the UFF has yet started, although each of these groups has reaffirmed the circumstances under which they might do so," the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning's report said.

The commission "will continue to do what we can to implement our mandate through continuing contact" with the main guerrilla groups on both sides of the sectarian divide.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he viewed the issue of IRA disarmament as crucial. "What we need to know is how and when arms will be put beyond use. We do need to see frther progress on this issue."

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political ally, said he believed the arms controversy could be resolved.

He accused the Protestant political leadership of failing to adapt to changed conditions in Northern Ireland and insisted that his party remained committed to the peace process.

Blaming Protestant "loyalist" guerrillas for turning on Roman Catholics with "bombs and bullets" in recent weeks, Adams told reporters: "It is still my view that this process will succeed."

Another Protestant guerrilla group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force, issued a statement which Britain's Times newspaper said included a threat to use violence if anyone tried to stop Protestants marching through a Catholic area.

The Drumcree parade next Sunday is a major flashpoint in Northern Ireland's so-called "marching season" when Protestants celebrate centuries-old battlefield victories over Catholics.

The IRA has twice opened up arms dumps for international inspection to prove its weapons were not being used, but Trimble and other Protestant politicians say that is not enough.

The disarmament issue has plagued the Good Friday peace accord since Protestant and Catholic leaders signed it in 1998 with the aim of drawing a line under three decades of sectarian and political conflict that killed more than 3,000 people.

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