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February 04, 2005

02/04/05 - State Dept Say IRA Statement is UNWELCOME

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02/04/05 10:16 EST

The US government is backing the demands by the Irish and
British premiers for an end to all paramilitary activity in
Northern Ireland.

In a strongly worded statement, a US State Department
official described as "unwelcome" the IRA`s decision on
Wednesday to withdraw its offer of verifiable disarmament
during last year`s talks.

"We share the view of the British and Irish Prime Ministers
that the continuation of paramilitarism and associated
criminality remains the central obstacle to a lasting and
durable peace in Northern Ireland," he said.

"All paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland should follow
through on the Good Friday Agreement commitments to the
decommissioning of all weapons."

In Derry, Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot
Ahern, has been discussing the implications of the recent
IRA statements with the SDLP and Sinn Féin.

The Taoiseach has said he has noted the distancing of Sinn
Féin's comments from yesterday's IRA statement.

Speaking in Athlone this morning, the Taoiseach said he had
not changed his view on the IRA position from that which he
expressed yesterday.

Asked if he considered yesterday's second statement by the
IRA to be a threat, Mr Ahern said his policy was not to
comment on IRA statements.

'We never have commented for 30 years on IRA statements and
we are not going to now', he said.

He also refused to comment on the role of the Sinn Féin
leadership in the present situation, and its criticism of
Ireland's Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell.

Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin said the governments were now
looking to what would happen after the general election.

"I believe we are in a very serious position and Sinn Fein
have been attempting to address that since the lynch mob
began on 20 December," he said, in a reference to the bank

As he met senior Sinn Fein figures for the first time since
two statements from the IRA were issued, Irish Foreign
Minister Dermot Ahern insisted Gerry Adams` party had to
sever its ties to the IRA.

As he met Sinn Fein`s Martin McGuinness and Mitchel
McLaughlin in Derry City, the Irish Foreign Minister said:
"Sinn Fein have a mandate but we want to convince Sinn Fein
that the connection between them and the IRA must finish
once and for all if they want to be part of any democratic
institutions, north or south of the border."

"As I have said before, we have got the distinct, definite
view of the police forces on both sides of the order that
there was Provisional IRA involvement in the (Northern Bank)
robbery and that has really had a huge effect on the trust
and confidence of the two governments."

Meanwhile, the deputy chair of the North's policing board,
Denis Bradley, has said he believes there are tensions
within the republican movement.

Mr Bradley added that this is a critical moment in the peace

The Labour Party has described the statement as a sinister
development, while the Green Party said it was extremely
intimidating in the language and tone used.

Last night Ireland's Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, said
it was his personal view that there was no role for
paramilitaries in modern Ireland.

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