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Trimble's 'crisis' threat over IRA

Trimble says he will resign within weeks unless the IRA starts to disarm  

LONDON, England -- Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble has said he is prepared to provoke a "crisis" in its political institutions unless the IRA starts disarming.

Following talks with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in London, on Tuesday, Ulster Unionist leader Trimble repeated his threat to resign unless the process began by July.

"If we come to the end of this month which the government had set as the period for full implementation of the (Good Friday) agreement and we find that the agreement with regards to decommissioning has not be implemented, then I am absolutely determined to follow through in terms of drawing a line and causing a crisis in the institutions by resigning," he warned.

"I made that absolutely clear. I underlined that to the prime minister at the end of the day."

Trimble, whose pro-British Ulster Unionist Party took a battering in last week's British general election, told reporters that Blair must press the IRA to disarm.

He said Blair had to hold firm on IRA decommissioning by refusing further concessions to republicans.

"We specifically warned the prime minister about getting into a situation of so-called negotiation where the republicans will sit on the same horse for the umpteenth time.


"It really is a time where promises should be kept, obligations should be carried out and we shouldn't have this sort of situation."

The general election result -- which widened a gulf between supporters and opponents of a 1998 peace pact -- was seen as a further blow to the landmark Good Friday Agreement.

Meanwhile, sources close to Trimble, who held his own Westminster seat, said they expected a challenge to his leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party.

It is believed a leadership bid may be launched by either veteran South Belfast MP, the Rev Martin Smyth, or Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson at the annual general meeting of the UUP's ruling council on June 23.

The UUP lost four House of Commons seats on its 1997 general election performance and has shed 31 councillors since the last local government elections.

The IRA has opened some of its arms dumps to outside monitors to prove weapons have not been used. Unionists say that is not enough.

To shore up his position in the run-up to last week's elections, Trimble pledged to resign on July 1 if the IRA, which has halted a long war against British rule, did not start scrapping arms.

Tuesday's talks marked the start of frantic fresh efforts by London and Dublin to find a solution before the troubled peace accord sustains another blow on Trimble's deadline date.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is due to meet Irish Premier Bertie Ahern in Dublin on Wednesday.

Blair and Ahern are also expected to discuss the crisis on the fringes of this week's European Union summit in Sweden.

But a hardline Protestant Unionist politician suggested the IRA was poised to make a new move.

David Burnside, a long-time political activist who won a prized seat for Trimble's party last week, said the IRA would soon seal -- and effectively abandon -- one of its arms dumps.

But he immediately dismissed it as a gimmick. "I am informed from reliable sources that Gerry Adams will report in the very near future that the IRA ... will put out of action permanently one arms dump," Burnside told Reuters.

"At the same time, the security services in Northern Ireland are aware of ... IRA importation of arms. This is a con job by Sinn Fein. It will not wash with the Unionist community."

• Ulster Unionist Party - Northern Ireland's largest political party
• Northern Ireland Office
• The Northern Ireland Executive
• D U P

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