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Adams call to IRA welcomed

McGuinness (left) and Adams
Adams (right) and McGuinness (left) have been in touch with IRA commanders  

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- A statement from the republican Sinn Fein party urging the IRA paramilitary group to disarm has been welcomed by the British and Irish governments

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had made a "highly significant statement" when he called on the Irish Republican Army to make a "groundbreaking move on the arms issue."

Adams said on Monday that he had spoken to the paramilitary group urging it to make the move to "save the peace process from collapse and transform the situation."

Reid must decide by Thursday whether to suspend Northern Ireland's devolved government for a third time after Ulster Unionist ministers quit in protest at the IRA's failure to put its weapons beyond use.

He will also consider calling new elections to the assembly.

Reid said Adams' comments were a "highly significant statement from someone of his authority and stature within republicanism."

He added: "Like everyone I hope that the IRA will accept the view that a groundbreaking move on the arms issue will transform the situation."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said the developments could potentially allow the peace process to "move on at pace", but he adopted a "wait and see" approach.

He said the statement by Adams was "a positive and constructive" step and he praised the "huge amount of effort" that had gone into the latest move.

"We are up against a very tight timescale. There's not just one issue but there are many issues that we have to make progress. But there is a great opportunity to do that," he added.

Michael McGimpsey, one of the Ulster Unionist ministers who resigned last week, also detected promising phrases in the Adams statement.

"But so far these are words and we have been at pains to state that words are not enough -- we want to see action," he said.

"However, it would be grudging of me not to state that there are promising parts in this statement that may be heralding further steps.

"At this point in time nothing has actually happened in terms of actions -- what we have here is the appearance of a promise -- we must wait to see further developments."

But the Reverend Ian Paisley, leader of the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party, was dismissive of the comments, saying "there is nothing in it."

IRA decommissioning has become a key sticking point in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Loyalists say the IRA has not done enough to disarm but republican and nationalist parties say the group has made big steps towards putting its weapons beyond use and co-operated with the international body overseeing decommissioning -- a cornerstone of the Good Friday peace accord that created Northern Ireland's coalition government.

Adams said in Monday's statement:"I do not underestimate the difficulties which this involves for the IRA.

"IRA volunteers have a view of themselves and a vision of the Ireland they want to be a part of. This is what will shape their attitude to this issue."


• Northern Ireland Assembly
• Sinn Fein
• Good Friday Agreement

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