Colombia Three must not cloud relations, says US envoy

The Colombia Three issue must not cause difficulties in relations between Ireland and the US, it was claimed today.

The Colombia Three issue must not cause difficulties in relations between Ireland and the US, it was claimed today.

US envoy on Northern Ireland Mitchell Reiss said the re-appearance of the three alleged IRA members in Ireland after eight months on the run from terrorist offences in Colombia was a concern but should not be allowed to sour transatlantic ties.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who spent last week holding official meetings in Colombia, said yesterday that Bogota authorities will serve extradition papers on the Irish Government this week to force Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly serve out their 17-year sentences in the South American state.

Speaking after a 30-minute meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin today, Mr Reiss said of the Colombia Three: “Obviously it’s a concern to the US.

“Dublin and Washington may have disagreements from time to time but let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture here.

“We don’t want the issue to cause problems in the broader relationship. I don’t think there are muddy waters. Dublin and Washington are extremely clear on where each one stands.

“Let’s see how this issue plays out and before jumping to conclusions.”

The three men, who were convicted by a Colombian appeal court last December of training Farc rebels, were voluntarily questioned by gardai last month but later released.

Mr Reiss also said that IRA decommissioning should be carried out sooner than later, and it must be definitive.

“I can be patient if we’re going to get the type of decommissioning we all want to see. I’m confident that it’s coming some time soon.”

The Special Envoy, who was accompanied by the US ambassador at the meeting with Mr Ahern also passed on the sympathy of the Irish people to Mr Reiss and US Ambassador James Kenny on the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Mr Reiss said: “He expressed the sympathy and support on behalf of the people of Ireland on what the people of the US have been going through for the past weeks and months, and it is very much appreciated.

It hasn’t been an easy time for us. But we’re going to get through this and it is always easier with the support of good friends like Ireland.

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