Impasse on arms set to continue

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The Independent Online


Former US senator George Mitchell said in Dublin yesterday that his three-man decommissioning body had "not yet made any decisions or reached any conclusions" on how to resolve the impasse over paramilitary weapons.

He was speaking after an hour-long meeting with the Taoiseach, John Bruton, and the Irish Foreign Minister, Dick Spring. But Mr Mitchell remained optimistic that the body could complete its report by its target date in the middle of this month.

Neither side was prepared to discuss details of their talks, but Mr Mitchell confirmed he had received a series of suggestions and analyses.

Asked about speculation that the Mitchell body was considering how a new elected assembly in Northern Ireland might assist political progress, Mr Bruton declined to say if he had outlined any formula under which Dublin might accept such a plan, which is being urged by Unionist and Alliance parties.

But he stressed his government had expressed its willingness to discuss the idea in the Downing Street joint communique last month. Mr Bruton said the matter was one to be dealt with during the political track of the talks, rather than the parallel arms track.

Earlier, Mr Spring said the government thought there was "no possibility" of nationalists accepting a return to any Stormont-type body which recreated the majority Unionist domination of the minority Catholic community. This had been repeatedly voiced by both the SDLP and Sinn Fein.

Indeed, after meeting Mr Mitchell, the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, said: "As far as we are concerned any return to a Stormont Assembly or indeed any variation of the proposals put by David Trimble is merely part of the stalling of this process. It's a non-runner."