IRA ceasefire will be tactical

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EXPECTATIONS of an early IRA ceasefire remained high in Dublin and Belfast yesterday, though it has become clear that the move will be a tactical device rather than the closing of the terrorist campaign.

Political opinion is unanimous that a permanent cessation and a complete renunciation of violence is needed. British and Irish ministers are emphasising that Sinn Fein will only be admitted to talks on the basis of the ending of the IRA campaign.

Yesterday, Gerry Adams described reports that a ceasefire would coincide with this week's visit by a group of Irish-Americans to Belfast as 'news to me and unhelpful'. The Sinn Fein leader is due to meet the group on Friday. Last year the IRA staged an undeclared one-week ceasefire while the same group visited Ireland. It looks unlikely that this will be repeated, but the expectation is that a much more significant development will take place early next month.

The signs are that the IRA will opt for an open- ended exercise rather than the widely-rumoured three- month stoppage. One possibility could be a declaration along the lines that 'offensive military action against Crown forces' is to be stopped.

Police sealed off part of the West End of London yesterday after a telephone caller using a recognised codeword warned that several devices had been placed in Regent Street and Oxford Street.

About an hour later, a device was discovered outside the Laura Ashley store at the junction of the two streets and was made safe by bomb-disposal experts. A British Transport Police officer found the device in a black plastic bag containing batteries and wires.