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Loyalist terror group UDA to fully disarm before February

The UDA is expected to fully disarm before the February deadline set by the Secretary of State, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

With General John de Chastelain and his team due back in Belfast next Monday, senior loyalists are predicting that the terror group will complete the |decommissioning process on time.

Recently UDA leaders pulled out of a planned first meeting with Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and raised doubts over decommissioning.

A senior paramilitary source pointed to high levels of dissident republican activity and the political standoff over policing and justice.

However, with General de Chastelain and his Independent International Commission on Decommissioning colleagues due back, loyalists are now predicting another arms move.

“It’s going to end up with decommissioning and people moving on well before the deadline,” one well-placed source said.

MPs are likely to want to hear an update during Northern Ireland Questions scheduled for February 3.

And the mandate that allows the IICD to operate ends just six days later on February 9.

Commenting on the expected UDA decommissioning move, a government source said: “I’m hoping they will do it and I’m hoping they won’t renege.”

According to loyalists a meeting with Mr McGuinness will now have to wait until after decommissioning.

This newspaper understands the talks that were planned for December 16 were organised by telephone while senior loyalists, including Jackie McDonald, were in Brussels.

It is understood McDonald was keen to meet the Sinn Fein leader before the pre-Christmas deadline he had set for First Minister Peter Robinson to agree a date for the transfer of policing and justice powers.

However, according to a senior source other loyalists felt they were being “bounced” into those talks without proper consultation and preparation.

“A meeting (with Martin McGuinness) should happen and will happen,” a loyalist told this newspaper.

By the time it does, the UDA should have made its next and final move to complete the decommissioning process.

Belfast Telegraph