Police are hoping that a last-minute compromise will avoid a repetition of last year's three-day stand-off, when thousands of Orangemen camped out until an 800-strong contingent was allowed through the Catholic Garvaghy Road area.
Orangemen in the mainly Protestant town insist they have been walking along the route for almost two centuries on their way back from a church service at Drumcree. Garvaghy Road residents say the parade is a much- resented intrusion in their entirely Catholic district.
Tension in the area has been rising, and yesterday a number of human rights groups appealed to police not to use plastic bullets in any disorder which might take place.
Unionist party leader David Trimble and DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley both said yesterday that they approved of the RUC's action in delaying a final decision. Mr Paisley added that re-routing the march would be "intolerable," while Mr Trimble said he suspected it would be allowed through on the same basis as last year.
But Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said that to ignore residents' wishes would be "con- frontational and provocative".