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24 June 1999 Edition

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FBI pulls out of Nelson inquiry

By Padraig MacDabhaid

The claim made by an FBI official that the role of the RUC in the Nelson inquiry ``may have been misconstrued'' comes as it has just been confirmed that the FBI withdrew from the investigation in mid-April, meaning that it was involved for less than three weeks.

This is a further blow to the inquiry which has been attacked from the outset because of the involvement of the RUC, the force which is under investigation about allegations of collusion in the murder of Rosemary Nelson.

After the murder of Rosemary Nelson, RUC chief constable Ronnie Flanagan declared that an investigation would begin and would involve both David Phillips, the chief constable of Kent, and the FBI. The RUC is now, predictably, denying that it had deliberately overstated the role of the FBI. An RUC spokesperson speaking on 19 March 1999, however, referring to the participation of both the FBI and the Kent Chief Constable, said that ``no constraint nor limit whatever will be placed upon them as they pursue their determination''. A representative of U.S. Congressman Chris Smith has confirmed that only three members of the FBI participated in the investigation for less than three weeks and that this participation was limited to an advisory role.

Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member Dara O'Hagan says the role of the FBI was ``trumpeted by the RUC chief constable''. The RUC overstated the FBI's role to deflect criticism from the inquiry, she says, which is now itself being seen as a stalling tactic and an attempt to stop an independent public inquiry taking place.

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