Ulster braced for more violence

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The Independent Online
SECURITY forces in Northern Ireland are braced for violence in the wake of Friday night's republican killing of a former policeman. The authorities were already expecting violence from both republicans and loyalists opposed to the peace talks. Renegade splinter groups are intent on derailing the talks, which are working to a deadline of 9 April.

The man killed was formerRUC reservist Cyril Stewart, 52, shot dead outside a shop inArmagh by two members of the Irish National Liberation Army.

Three dissident republican groups are presently active: the INLA, which has now killed three people in four months; the Continuity Army Council, which has bombed town centres in recent months; and an unnamed group of former IRA members responsible for two recent mortar attacks on security bases. On the opposing side, the Loyalist Volunteer Force is assumed to be responsible for a Friday night bomb attack on the home of a woman prison officer elsewhere in Co Armagh. LVF prisoners have recently complained of allegedly harsh treatment in the Maze prison.

The worry is that the LVF will use the latest killing to justify a new wave of violence. The INLA's assassination of LVF leader Billy Wright in the Maze prison in December led to 11 more killings in six weeks.

n Tony Blair and Irish premier Bertie Ahern had a 20-minute telephone conversation yesterday during which they pledged to intensify efforts to reach a settlement and held open the possibility that they could act as joint chairmen of the talks.

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