Emergency talks begin in bid to end city's violence

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The Independent Online

Politicians, police and community leaders in Northern Ireland were yesterday seeking to persuade loyalist paramilitaries to call off the rioting which has broken out in east Belfast on two successive nights.

But extra police were on standby in case of a fresh outbreak of the disturbances which have seen a return of the gun to the streets of Belfast.

Three people, one of them a press photographer, have been shot as loyalists and Catholics clashed around the Catholic Short Strand area of the city, a traditional flashpoint. Police said the photographer, who works for the Press Association, had been shot by a dissident republican on Tuesday night. His condition was described as stable.

Talks with the Ulster Volunteer Force, who police say started the trouble, may involve Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson who said if people needed to have issues ad-dressed he would meet them. He said the nights of rioting had caused "reputational damage" to the economy.

Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay described the shooting of the photographer as "an act with murderous intent" by dissident republicans.

He added: "The bulk of this violence is coming from the loyalist community, and the UVF in east Belfast does have role to play in that. They started this."

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said: "A small minority of individuals are clearly determined to destabilise our communities. They will not be allowed to drag us back to the past."