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Threat of funding withdrawal remains in place for UDA

By Noel McAdam

The threat to withdraw Government funding from a UDA-linked project remained in place today, despite reports that the paramilitary organisation has held recent talks with the decommissioning body.

Confirmation of the contact, believed to involve a new UDA interlocutor, came as it emerged that Executive Minister Margaret Ritchie will not be in Northern Ireland next Tuesday when the 60-day deadline elapses.

Instead, the Social Development Minister will make an assessment of any UDA progress on decommissioning when she returns later in the week.

It has also been confirmed that Ms Ritchie also held talks around three weeks ago with the head of the International Commission on Decommissioning, (IICD), General John de Chastelain.

But a spokesman for the DSD said the meeting had been for the Minister to outline her position on the withdrawal of £1.2m funding for the Conflict Transfromation Project.

Ms Ritchie is travelling to Brussels on Monday night for a series of Open Days designed to promote Northern Ireland as a successful region within Europe.

"These are very important events and not something the Minister would have wanted to stay away from," a spokesman said.

A DSD spokesman said: "The Minister returns on Thursday and will begin to make her assessment then, but that does not mean a statement is likely on Thursday or Friday."

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