IRA takes hard line on arms decommissioning



The IRA last night appeared to reject outright the proposed international commission to supervise taking paramilitary weapons out of circulation.

It took the unusual step of issuing a second statement to clarify its position after strong British pressure to launch the idea of a commission with the former US senator George Mitchell as a likely chairman. The IRA said it would not disarm "in any circumstances".

It accused the British government of using Unionist intransigence as an excuse for its refusal to move. A spokesman earlier referred to "other diversions". Last night this was clarified as a reference to British pressure that the IRA begin decommissioning its arsenal as a matter of priority.

However, pressure on the IRA has been increased by the fact that political representatives of the loyalist paramilitaries have indicated their willingness to co-operate with the proposed decommissioning body.

t A new element of uncertainty was introduced in the contest for the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party yesterday when a fifth candidate, the Upper Bann MP David Trimble, entered the race.

Mr Trimble, who has been an MP for only five years, has long had a reputation as a hardliner. He strengthened this in July when he took a leading role in a loyalist confrontation with the RUC in Portadown.

The significance of his entry is that he can be expected to draw support from the same quarters as the Strangford MP John Taylor, who is regarded as the front-runner to succeed James Molyneaux.