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U.S., Finnish disarmament officials win British royal honors

U.S., Finnish disarmament officials win British royal honors

American and Finnish officials who oversaw last year's landmark disarmament of the Irish Republican Army were honored by Britain in the annual New Year's list published Saturday.
U.S. State Department veteran Andrew Sens and Finnish Brigadier Gen. Tauno Nieminen both were appointed honorary commanders of the Order of British Empire, or CBEs, in the list published by the British government and Buckingham Palace. A senior aide, Finnish civil servant Aaro Suonio, became an honorary member of the Order of British Empire, or MBE.
In 1997, the British and Irish governments jointly appointed Sens and Nieminen to be deputy leaders of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, an expert panel led by retired Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain. Its job was to persuade Northern Ireland's rival paramilitary groups to surrender their weapons.
Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord set mid-2000 as the target date for full disarmament of outlawed groups. But neither side's extremists _ the Irish Republican Army in hard-line Catholic areas, and the Ulster Defense Association and Ulster Volunteer Force in Protestant areas _ met the deadline.
The IRA, which began surrendering weapons in secret to the commissioners in October 2001, completed the process in September 2005, a landmark in peacemaking. But the UDA and UVF, though largely observing cease-fires, have refused to surrender a single bullet.
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, who governs the British territory, lauded Nieminen and Sens for helping to transform society over the past decade of peacemaking.
"Northern Ireland today is a very different place than it was when the commission started its work. The fact that it has changed so much is down, in no small part, to the remarkable contribution made by the commission to the securing of lasting peace," Hain said.
"Through their integrity, diligence and commitment to peace, they have helped to deliver what many thought would never be delivered _ the decommissioning of IRA weapons," he said.
De Chastelain was not included in Saturday's honors because he received a higher British honor in 1999, becoming a Companion of Honor, in recognition of his 22-month work chairing Belfast negotiations that produced the Good Friday deal.
The honor recognizes service of national importance and is limited to a select group of 65 people at any one time.
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On the Net:
University of Ulster site listing disarmament reports,
http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/peace/decommission/iicdreports.htm


Updated : 2021-08-03 15:36 GMT+08:00