Time 'running out' over arms says Reid


Northern Secretary Mr John Reid warned today time is running out to save devolution in the North, as Sinn Féin said decommissioning is still a huge issue .

"We are fast running out of time on this impasse," he said.

Dr Reid says the two issues that needed to be resolved were putting arms beyond use and stabilising the political institutions of Northern Ireland.

"Everybody knows what we have to do. We have very little time indeed now to do that," he said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams said today he has had contact with the IRA but decommissioning is a "huge issue for physical force Republicans".

Speaking on RTÉ's This Weekprogramme, Mr Adams said discussions on ending the current impasse would continue until tomorrow at least. He said he spoke with the British Prime Minister Mr Blair and the Taoiseach Mr Ahern yesterday.

Mr Adams also said Sinn Féin's chief negotiator, Mr Martin McGuinness is to travel to America this evening for a round of talks with political leaders in Washington.

The next few days are critical if the peace process is to be rescued following the decision of UUP leader Mr David Trimble to pull his ministers out of the Stormont Executive.

Republicans have until midnight Thursday to start decommissioning - if they do not the resignation of the Unionist ministers will become effective and Dr Reid will have to decide whether to suspend devolution again or call fresh elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Dr Reid today acknowledges decommissioning would be difficult for the Republican movement but said it was an indispensable part of the Belfast Agreement.

He says progress on peace in Northern Ireland was a "process" rather than an "event."

All signs seems to indicate that the IRA is ready to make the decommissioning move which some republicans have called a bigger step than calling their ceasefire.