Police injured in renewed Belfast rioting

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Fresh clashes broke out in Belfast last night as fears grew that the Government might be forced to suspend the Northern Ireland Assembly to prevent David Trimble quitting as First Minister.

Renewed sectarian violence gripped Belfast for a second night, leaving at least twenty police officers injured by missiles thrown in the Ardoyne area, the scene of serious rioting on Thursday evening. Thirty-nine officers were injured during several hours of disturbances involving large Catholic and Loyalist mobs.

Police last night came up against petrol bombs when they confronted the large crowds. As the attacks intensified, blast bombs were hurled and shots fired at officers.

The peace process has been thrown into crisis by Mr Trimble's threat to resign on 1 July if the IRA made no further steps towards decommissioning. But the IRA has made it clear there was no prospect of action because of Unionist ultimatums.

Suspending the Assembly would leave Mr Trimble unable to carry out his resignation threat and would buy a desperately needed breathing space for the peace process.

Ian Paisley, leader of the anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party, claimed suspension had been mooted during talks with Tony Blair and John Reid, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in Downing Street. He said: "I think they will suspend. I have taken from some hints I heard today that they will suspend."