Ulster Freedom Fighters pledge to liaise with disarmament body

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The Independent Online
THE LOYALIST Ulster Freedom Fighters are to enter talks with the International Commission on Decommissioning, it was announced yesterday.

The group has decided to appoint representatives to liaise directly with General John de Chastelain. But it also said: "Disarmament will only be considered in the context of the IRA having already begun to decommission its arsenal."

The announcement in west Belfast came as the general prepared an interim report for the British and Irish governments after talks with the two other groups on the ceasefire, the IRA and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

The UFF statement said: "After careful consideration and widespread consultation with volunteers we, the leadership of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, have decided to appoint representatives to liaise directly on our behalf with General John de Chastelain and his colleagues on the independent International Commission on Decommissioning. We remain committed to playing our part in the search for a peaceful and democratic resolution of the conflict and view this decision as enhancing the prospects for attaining that goal. However, it should be noted that on the fundamental question of physical disarmament, the position of the Ulster Freedom Fighters remains as previously publicly stated. Disarmament will only be considered in the context of the IRA having already began to decommission its arsenal of weaponry." The UFF is now expected to have an early meeting with General de Chastelain.

The announcement was made by an unarmed group of six masked men at a club in west Belfast. Journalists were told that no questions would be allowed. The men were in green bomber jackets and sweaters, black balaclavas and gloves. They stood and sat at a table draped with the Union flag and in front of six standards representing the UFF's six "battalions".

John White, of the Ulster Democratic Party, the UFF's political wing, said the decision, which followed a two-week review by the organisation and his party, was a crucial step. "It's the last major building block in building confidence in the wider community. It's a huge step forward and the statement will have a very important role to play. It has to be welcomed," he said.

It is understood that Mr White, Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair and William "Winkie" Dowds will be part of the UFF delegation to meet the general.

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