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IRA Proposes Disarmament Plan

BY Admin  August 6, 2001 at 4:30 PM EDT

The commission, headed by Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain offered no details of the IRA’s plan, but a spokesman said it was discussed during a recent meeting with leaders from the guerrilla group.

British and Irish leaders applauded the move, and asked the country’s main Protestant political faction, the Ulster Unionist Party, to abandon its threats to break up the country’s fledgling home-rule government this weekend.

“People should see the historic significance of what has happened, rather than seeing the difficulties still in it,” Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble welcomed the move, but said the IRA hadn’t yet satisfied his central demand — the actual depletion of its weapons stockpiles.

“We’re glad to see that the IRA has taken a significant step toward decommissioning, but it hasn’t actually begun decommissioning, and of course we want to see that happen,” he said.

Trimble had served as the leader of the region’s coalition government until he resigned July 1 citing the IRA’s refusal to disarm. He said his party would not offer a replacement for him until the IRA begins its disarmament.

Unless Trimble re-joins the government or another Ulster Unionist takes his place, the British government will dissolve the home-rule government, set up after the landmark 1998 Good Friday peace accord, on Sunday.

Last week, leaders from Britain and Ireland unveiled a plan they said could keep the coalition from collapsing. The blueprint calls for IRA disarmament, but contains commitments from the British government to close specific army bases, offer amnesty for IRA members on the run and strengthen plans to reform the region’s mostly Protestant police force.

They said such moves could satisfy demands from Sinn Fein, a party said to be the political arm of the IRA, and the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams urged the Ulster Unionists to accept the IRA’s plan.

“Anyone who knows anything about arms, about insurrection, about conflict has to know that this is a historical breakthrough,” he said.