Army close two Ulster bases

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The Independent Online

The army has announced that it is to close two of its bases in Northern Ireland as part of moves to scale down security in the province.

Royal Ulster Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan announced the closures of observation posts at Broadway and New Lodge in west and north Belfast, and a smaller military base close to the border outside near Newry, Co Down.

The closures were agreed before the IRA made its latest offer to put its guns out of service and will help to placate Republicans who may be worried that Nationalists are making all of th concessions in the search for peace.

The next hurdle for the peace process will be a vote by David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party on whether to endorse the new deal.

The vote will take place just two days before Tony Blair restores devolution to the power sharing assembly at Stormont on May 22.

Today's announcement by Sir Ronnie was broadly welcomed by the pro-Agreement parties.

Mr Trimble said: "I am confident the Chief Constable will be exercising his judgment based on purely professional considerations as to what is necessary to counter the threat."

SDLP leader Seamus Mallon said the security moves were crucial to the Good Friday Agreement.