Five-day deadline to respond to inititative

Document covers policing, troop reduction and government, but makes no detailed proposals on decommissioning of arms

London and Dublin describe the document issued yesterday as setting out the steps they would take, as part of a package, to implement the Good Friday Agreement fully, and have asked the parties to respond to it by 6 August.

The document is divided into four sections, dealing with decommissioning, policing, normalisation, and stability of the institutions. The governments maintain that the Agreement can only succeed if all four parts of the package are implemented together.

Decommissioning

In this, the shortest section, the governments largely confine themselves to reminding the parties that decommissioning is an indispensable part of implementing the Agreement. They say that the issue must be resolved in a manner which is acceptable to, and verified by, the decommissioning body headed by the Canadian General John de Chastelain.

The section's brevity, and its non-confrontational language, seem intended to avoid any suggestion that a gauntlet is being flung down to the IRA. Republicans have always said the IRA does not respond to threats or imposed deadlines.

Policing

The much longer section on policing contains a number of points which have emerged from detailed negotiations on the policing report produced by EC Commissioner Chris Patten. London says that it will produce a revised implementation plan, reportedly up to 70 pages long, setting out plans for putting Patten recommendations into effect.

These include the future structure of the Special Branch, the closure of an interrogation centre, and plans to decrease the size of the present full-time reserve and increase the part-time reserve. One of the Patten recommendations was for an early expansion of the part-time reserve, recruiting from those mainly Catholic areas where few police live at the moment.

Some of the new changes are expected to require fresh legislation to be passed at Westminster. Nationalists, and in particular Sinn Fein, have insisted that the British government's intentions should be spelt out in detail, with the republicans saying that they wish to see the draft legislation.

London says that legislative amendments will be set out in detail in the revised implementation plan. In addition, the already-appointed Oversight Commissioner, who is responsible for putting the Patten report into effect, will review the new arrangements and report by October next year. New legislation will follow this, the document says.

The implementation plan will set out the intention to avoid the use of plastic bullets except where there is a serious risk of loss of life or major injury. Meanwhile, a research programme examining alternatives will be completed.

The government hopes that a new Policing Board will be established by the end of next month, with political parties nominating some of its members. It will also shortly publish a plan, together with draft legislation, for an overhaul of the criminal justice system.

Normalisation

Providing the threat of violence is reduced, the British government will carry out "a progressive rolling programme" reducing troop levels and military installations in Northern Ireland.

Although no timetable is set out, it says that ultimately this would mean the closure of the great majority of army bases, the demolition of all surveillance towers and the end of an army presence in police stations. The use of army helicopters, which are presently heavily used for both surveillance and transport, would be confined to training purposes only.

In the first instance, in the event of a reduction of the threat level, two of the military watchtowers in south Armagh would be demolished. A military sangar in the area would also removed, along with the closure of an army base in Magherafelt, Co Londonderry.

The operation of the Parades Commission, which decides on whether contentious marches should be allowed or banned, is to be reviewed. The government says the Commission has had four successful years, but that it would consider any changes that could promote public confidence.

In a response to nationalist calls for inquiries into a number of controversial deaths, both governments are to appoint a judge of international standing to investigate allegations of collusion. These include the cases of Pat Finucane, Robert Hamill and Rosemary Nelson, in which criticisms have been directed against the RUC.

They also include the cases of senior RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, who were killed by the IRA on the border in 1989. Their deaths followed a meeting with Gardai in the Irish Republic, and there have been allegations of Garda collusion in the attack.

The judge will review all the papers in the cases, carry out interviews and report with recommendations. Arrangements will be made to hear the views of the victims' families and keep them informed of progress. The two governments commit themselves to holding a public inquiry in any case if the judge recommends this.

On the issue of the dozens of republicans and a few loyalists who remain "on the run" for offences committed before 1998, the two governments say they will take steps "so that those concerned are no longer pursued". Although the authorities maintain this does not amount to an amnesty, it will have the effect of clearing the books of possible prosecutions for offences committed before the signing of the Agreement.

Stability of the institutions

The governments set out a draft statement, which they would like the parties to sign up to, which appears to be aimed at preventing David Trimble from repeating the action he took as First Minister in preventing Sinn Fein ministers from attending cross-border meetings.

The parties are asked to reaffirm that they will enable others "to play their rightful parts" in such meetings.

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