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IRA Offers to Resume Talks - 2001-09-20


The Irish Republican Army is offering to resume disarmament talks as a deadline nears to break a political stalemate threatening the province's government.

The IRA says it is ready to intensify its talks with an international commission on the disarmament of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.

The IRA withdrew a disarmament offer last month after Britain briefly suspended Northern Ireland's coalition government in a legal maneuver to buy more time for negotiations.

Britain faces a new deadline of midnight Saturday. If there is no last-minute breakthrough, London could either suspend the government again, or call elections.

Pro-British parties in Northern Ireland say they will not participate any more in the coalition government until the IRA begins actual disarmament.

The IRA has come under new pressure to disarm in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the United States last week. The IRA's statement expressed sympathy for the victims of the attacks.

Pro-British political leaders say they are astonished, given the IRA's violent record in its long war to end British rule over the province.

Reg Empsy of the Ulster Unionist Party recalled an IRA bombing spree against civilians in 1972 known as 'Bloody Friday.' "After the number of civilians that have been murdered and killed by the IRA with not only no warning, but bombs planted in such a way that civilians ran into them," he said. "And I remember Bloody Friday in the city of Belfast. I think that was sick."

However, the political wing of the IRA, the Sein Fein party, says it is wrong to compare what happened in the United States to the IRA's cause.

Sein Fein leader Gerry Adams says the U.S. events illustrate the need for peace in Northern Ireland. "There are very few people who relate what happened in the USA to Irish republicanism," he said. "That's first of all. Secondly, of course the response to what happened in the USA from people in this island has to be to make this peace process work."

In another development, the IRA says three Irishmen arrested last month in Colombia were not on any official mission for the organization.

Colombia is investigating allegations that the men gave military training to leftist guerrillas there.

The United States has warned of serious consequences if the IRA does not cut any links to the Colombian rebels.

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