WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States is waiting for an international disarmament commission to verify that the Irish Republican Army has begun to disarm, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday.

``The commission will tell us whether the statement that we've seen is being implemented and we look for the commission to make a judgment on that point,'' Boucher said.

Any steps the IRA makes toward disarmament, however, ``would constitute a very historic breakthrough in the peace process,'' Boucher said.

Martin McGuinnes, the senior negotiator for Sinn Fein, met briefly Tuesday afternoon with Secretary of State Colin Powell after his meeting with Richard Haass, the State Department envoy monitoring Northern Ireland's peace process.

The IRA announced Tuesday it has begun to disarm for the first time. It had pledged in May 2000 to put its weapons ``beyond use,'' a euphemism for disarmament. But its failure to fulfill the promise has angered Protestants and threatened the peace process in Northern Ireland.