These parties, which have close links with paramilitary organisations, claim that to discuss decommissioning now will leave loyalists defenceless against the threat of IRA violence. Yesterday, the Ulster Unionists' deputy leader John Taylor issued a statement insisting that they were not calling for unilateral loyalist decommissioning. He said: "We emphasise that there can't be any partial decom-missioning by loyalist paramilitaries unless there is similar decommissioning at the same time by republican paramilitaries."
The Ulster Unionists moved swiftly to defuse a rift with the two fringe loyalist parties yesterday over decommissioning of terrorist weapons. The call by Unionists for a working party to consider the issue ahead of the multi-party talks in September infuriated the Progressive Unionist Party and the Ulster Democratic Party during talks at Stormont on Monday which were adjourned without agreement on the agenda.