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IRA Disarmament Key to New Gov’t

January 17, 2000

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ The fledgling Protestant-Catholic government could unravel if the Irish Republican Army doesn’t start to disarm this month, a leading moderate in the major Protestant party warned Monday.

The comments by Duncan Shipley-Dalton underscored building tensions within the Ulster Unionist Party, whose leader oversees the four-party Cabinet formed last month under terms of the 1998 Good Friday accord.

Party chief David Trimble won narrow Ulster Unionist backing to accept the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party as Cabinet colleagues, but only on condition that the IRA begins to disarm in January.

The IRA has not indicated any intention to deliver arms before the Ulster Unionists vote Feb. 12 whether to remain in the Cabinet.

Speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the legislature from which the Cabinet is drawn, Shipley-Dalton told Sinn Fein members: ``I would be unwilling and unable to support the continuation of the institutions of this Assembly in the event that decommissioning did not occur by the end of January.

``I say that as probably one of the most liberal members you’re going to find on this side of this house,″ added Shipley-Dalton, a former British soldier who had strongly urged Trimble to form the Cabinet and see whether the IRA responded.

Britain’s minister responsible for Northern Ireland, Peter Mandelson, repeated his own calls for disarmament during a visit to Omagh, the town where a car bomb planted by IRA dissidents claimed 29 lives in 1998 _ the bloodiest single atrocity in the Northern Ireland conflict.

``All of the agreement must be implemented, including decommissioning, if all sections of the community are to continue to support it,″ he said.

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