WASHINGTON – The White House on Thursday called the Irish Republican Army's (search) pledge to end its armed campaign and resume disarmament an "important and potentially historic" move toward peace in the historically troubled region.
The IRA's move is aimed at reviving Northern Ireland's peace process. The IRA said all of its clandestine units had been ordered to place their weapons in arms dumps and cease all activities, although it would not formally disband.
"We understand that the IRA and its members will no longer have any contact with any foreign paramilitary and terrorist organizations," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
The White House said the IRA's statement needs to be followed by actions that will demonstrate its commitment to giving up all paramilitary and criminal activities.
"We understand that many, especially victims and their families, will be skeptical," McClellan said. "They will want to be certain that this terrorism and criminality are indeed things of the past."
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he hoped the IRA's statement "means we're finally nearing the end of this very long process to take guns and criminality out of politics in Northern Ireland once and for all."
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a leading supporter of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein (search) party, hailed the IRA's announcement, saying it is "a truly defining moment in Irish history."
King, who was to appear at a news conference later Thursday with Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness (search), said he had been told two large IRA ammo dumps would be destroyed later in the day, but he said he did not know where.
"I can understand the Unionists having some skepticism, which is why I think it will take several months to go back into government, but there's no reason negotiations can't start immediately," said King.