Northern Ireland loyalist group dumps arms: report

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    Northern Ireland loyalist group dumps arms: report

    Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:49pm EDT Anne Cadwallader

    BELFAST (Reuters) - The Ulster Volunteer Force, a pro-British paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, may have dumped a significant amount of its weapons, the BBC reported on Thursday, without citing any sources.

    Military organizations that want to keep Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom have been under pressure for years to start getting rid of arms following the Irish Republican Army's decision to dispose of its weapons in 2005.

    The BBC said that General John de Chastelain, head of an international decommissioning body that oversaw the IRA's disarmament, had witnessed the UVF's move.

    The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning refused to comment.

    Northern Ireland's Secretary of State Shaun Woodward, who set an August deadline for significant progress, advised patience until there was confirmation from the IICD but said a move to decommission would be hugely significant.

    "SEISMIC SHIFT"

    "If these reports are confirmed it would be a seismic shift, (that) Loyalism has decided to embrace politics and not violence," he told a news conference.

    Northern Ireland has enjoyed relative peace since a 1998 deal ended the IRA's 30-year military campaign to end British control of the province.

    Removing guns from Loyalist groups, so called for the loyalty to Britain and its monarchy, is seen as a crucial step to permanent peace.

    The UVF killed more than 540 people during The Troubles -- 30 years of violence between the IRA and Loyalists -- making it the most lethal of the province's pro-British paramilitary groups.

    In May 2007, it said it would put "beyond reach" weapons it used against Catholics. However, the Independent Monitoring Commission said the UVF needed to do more.

    Northern Ireland has a number of pro-British paramilitary organizations, whose deeds and members are lionized in murals around east Belfast. Some of their members have been involved in drug-dealing and other crimes since the 1998 peace deal

    Northern Ireland loyalist group dumps arms: report | International | Reuters
     
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