SF 'against any conflict return'

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Gerry Adams said Sinn Fein wanted to defend the peace process
Sinn Fein is totally opposed to any return to conflict, Gerry Adams has said.

Mr Adams said a return to conflict would have "devastating consequences for everyone on the island".

He challenged the British and Irish governments to decide where their priorities lay.

The IRA denies claims it was behind the £26.5m Belfast bank raid in December, and earlier this week, it withdrew its offer of complete decommissioning.

Mr Adams said Sinn Fein's priority was to defend the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

The Sinn Fein president was speaking after the IRA issued two statements warning of the serious state of the political process.

Mr Adams told party members in Dublin on Saturday that the governments had abused the party's role as messengers for the IRA.

He said: "The electoral mandate of the Sinn Fein party has been ignored. We remain wedded to our peace strategy."

Mr Adams added that the "mishandling" of recent political efforts had been "extremely damaging to the peace process".

He claimed the problem was the DUP's refusal to share power, and said the government's confrontational approach was making a bad situation worse.

On Friday, Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern said Sinn Fein has a mandate but must sever its links with the IRA before it can play a full part in democratic politics.

"We have got the distinct and definite view of the police forces on both sides of the border that there was Provisional IRA involvement in the robbery and that has really had a huge effect on the trust and confidence of the two governments," he said.

IRA statement

The IRA's latest statement said: "The two governments are trying to play down the importance of our statement because they are making a mess of the peace process.

"Do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation."

Unionist politicians have described the statement as "sinister".

The Independent Monitoring Commission has presented its report on the robbery to the British and Irish governments.

The report is not expected to be published until next week.

It is thought it will concur with the police assessment that the IRA was to blame for the bank raid and to suggest sanctions against Sinn Fein.

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