Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said there was cause for concern that the IRA was still intent on keeping its guns and bombs while at the same time it called for those behind the Omagh bombing - the dissident Real IRA - to disband.
And both David Trimble, Northern Ireland First Minister, and former Irish premier John Bruton said the IRA had had long enough to call an end to the war.
With unequivocal commitment to democracy being widely demanded in the wake of the Omagh atrocity, an IRA statement insisting it would not decommission or formally declare its ceasefire permanent caused widespread dismay on both sides of the Irish border.
The Stormont deputy first minister-elect Seamus Mallon attacked the IRA's implication that it would not even divest itself of Semtex explosive. "Within the entire island of Ireland the attitude is that anything which is part and parcel of the type of explosion which we saw in Omagh has no role in the life that we want to create," he said.
The tough stance of Mr Bruton, leader of Fine Gael, will reinforce Ulster Unionists' unwillingness to accept Sinn Fein ministers in a Stormont executive unless they confirm the end of republican militarism. Sinn Fein is under pressure to give such a reassurance before President Clinton's arrival in Ireland on Thursday.
Mr Bruton, Taoiseach from 1995 until June last year, said it was "unthinkable" that "a cabinet minister with a private army that is still defying the state's laws" should hold office.
"Refusal to say that the war is over means that the IRA reserves the right to use warfare to get its way in defiance of the will of the people North and South" in May's referenda, he said.
t A County Kildare man was charged in Dublin's Special Criminal Court with terrorist offences following the seizure of 1,000lb of home-made explosives at Dun Laoghaire ferry port in April. The bomb was believed to have been destined for use against a target in Britain.
John McNamara, 36, of Kilcock, was charged with possession of explosives on 2 April with intent to cause explosions likely to endanger life or cause serious injury whether in the Irish state or elsewhere. He was arrested at his home early on Saturday.Reuse content