Call for paramilitaries to say 'war is over'

Thursday 27 February 2003 19.58

An influential American group has called on paramilitaries in the North to make a straightforward statement that 'the war is over'.

The National Committee on American Foreign Policy, which is chaired by Bill Flynn, has also called for the North's paramilitaries to give agreement on the full decommissioning of their weaponry.

The call was made as part of ten recommendations issued by the Committee in Belfast this afternoon. The group has indicated that after ten years of negotiation the time has come for 'a final peaceful settlement'.

Among the other recommendations, the group calls for 'unconditional support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland' and 'normalisation of British military forces armaments and installations'.

The group also recommends the establishment of a peace commission to monitor those issues agreed upon but not capable of instant implementation, which would report periodically to the public and the British and Irish governments for their response and action.

The content and timing of today's recommendations coming ahead of Monday's summit at Hillsborough is seen as highly significant.

Mr Flynn was a key player in securing an entry visa to the United States for Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams in 1993 prior to the first IRA ceasefire and is seen as someone who has previously brought his influence to bear on the Republican movement.

Ahern reports 'progress' in Blair meeting

The Taoiseach has urged all sides involved in the efforts to restore devolution in the North that time is limited and that they should complete their work by next Monday.

Mr Ahern was speaking following a meeting with Tony Blair at Downing Street.

He said some progress had been made in his talks with Mr Blair but that there were a few major difficult tasks to be completed. He told reporters they could not sit around forever.

Today's meeting was expected to be the last between Mr Ahern and Mr Blair before they go to Hillsborough Castle next Monday to finalise a deal that they hope will bring the political parties back to Stormont.

Tony Blair has promised to do everything he can to complete the North's peace process despite the growing crisis with Iraq.

The diplomatic activity between Dublin, London and Belfast has intensified in the past week.

Both governments say they are working flat out to hammer out a formula that might lead to the return of devolution.

The two governments hope that on Monday they will be able to put to the parties an outline of a deal.

It is understood to contain a British commitment to reduce troop numbers and demolish watchtowers in return for what Tony Blair has termed 'substantial acts of completion' by the IRA - in other words an end to paramilitary violence.

The two governments have also been discussing progress on policing and whether Sinn Féin will join the Policing Board.

Following the Weston Park talks of July 2001, there are likely to be proposals on what should happen to the so-called 'on the runs' - those fugitives and suspects who are still being sought by the police.