Spring sees "positive elements" in Sinn Fein's arms proposals


THE Tanaiste, Mr Spring, last night welcomed "positive elements" in the Sinn Fein submission made to the International Body on Decommissioning, and published yesterday.

It included proposals that paramilitary groups would dispose of their own weapons, subject to third party verification. Mr Spring, who is on a fact finding mission to Cyprus in preparation for Ireland's assumption of the EU Presidency in June, described the Sinn Fein proposal as "evidence of serious engagement" that augured well for the future of the International Body's work.

Mr Spring and the Taoiseach, Mr Bruton, are due to meet the commission, which is chaired by the former United States Senate majority leader, Mr George Mitchell, in Dublin tomorrow. Later, the three man panel will hear details of the Sinn Fein document from the party leader, Mr Adams,

Mr Spring also said he hopes "all sides will accept the international commission's findings as a basis for moving towards all party talks." The three man international body is to submit its report to the Irish and British government late next week.

Sinn Fein revealed yesterday that written submission to the international body included the suggestion that, "as part of a peace settlement", the disposal of arms by those in possession of them was a method "which may find acceptance

Sinn Fein asserted that this possible scheme originated from a number of options advanced by the British government nine months ago, and it stressed that it would require agreement by the armed groups themselves and would have to be part of a comprehensive peace settlement.

In a cautious reaction, the Northern Ireland Office confirmed that such an option had been considered last May and had not been ruled out, although it posed considerable problems, not least that of verification. The Ulster Unionist MP, Mr Ken Maginnis, said that if there was an acceptance that there was a need to get rid of illegal weapons, he welcomed that.

However, optimism over a possible chink in the arms impasse was dampened by Mr McGuinness's insistence that the deadlock could be broken only by British agreement to sideline the "Washington 3" condition - that some arms must be decommissioned in advance of all party talks. In turn, British government sources indicated that the "Washington 3" requirement remained unchanged.