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Fresh violence in N. Ireland

Blair and Ahern
Blair and Ahern are trying to break the deadlock in the N. Ireland peace talks  


BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- More violence has broken out in Northern Ireland as Protestants hurled petrol and blast bombs towards a Catholic area of Belfast, police have said.

A police spokesman told Reuters: "Police have contained the situation. There were no incursions (into the Catholic area) and no injuries."

A number of police officers were injured earlier in violence between Protestants and Catholics in north Belfast, the agency reported.

Troops were called in to help police restore order after the police were attacked with bricks, petrol and acid bombs and other missiles when they tried to keep rival crowds of Protestants and Catholics apart in four nearby parts of north Belfast early on Tuesday.

Northern Ireland has seen a series of violent outbreaks in recent weeks, applying pressure on Britain, the Irish Republic and politicians from the Protestant majority and Catholic minority to revive the stalled peace process.

More than 100 police officers were injured in Belfast last week after serious clashes broke out following a day of marches by Protestants.

Police said 55 officers were hurt -- one seriously after being hit by a pickaxe -- in the violence, which flared as marchers from the Protestant Orange Order passed through a mainly Catholic area of the Ardoyne, north Belfast, after an earlier parade.

The same area was the scene of Northern Ireland's worst sectarian clashes in three years last month.

Northern Ireland peace talks involving British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Republic Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, as well as feuding Protestant and Catholic politicians, ended over the weekend with progress but no agreement.

Under the threat of more violence and an August deadline for calling new elections for the province's power-sharing assembly or suspending it, Blair said the latest negotiations ended with the landmark 1998 Good Friday peace pact still intact.

A statement issued by Blair and Ahern on Saturday said that "further negotiations were not necessary," but that movement towards peace was still possible.

The statement said the two governments were preparing a new comprehensive peace package addressing all the issues discussed during the six days of talks in Staffordshire. The package will then be presented for consideration by the province's Protestant and Catholic politicians.

The package will deal with the main sticking point of the talks -- paramilitary disarmament -- as well as reforms to the police force and a reduction in the size of numbers of troops serving in the area.

No date has been set for the package to be given to the Protestant and Catholic groups, but Blair said it would be "as soon as possible."






RELATED STORIES:
RELATED SITES:
• Good Friday Agreement
• Northern Ireland Assembly
• Northern Ireland Office
• British Prime Minister
• Irish Prime Minister

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