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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore in Oldham
"This evening, work has begun in earnest to build bridges"
 real 56k

Pakistani high commissioner AbdulKaderJaffer
"We need to live together in harmony"
 real 56k

Nick Griffen, British National Party spokesman
"There is blame on both sides"
 real 28k

Oldham's Deputy Mayor, Riaz Ahmed
"It is a poverty problem, but it has been exploited by the National Front and the British National Party
 real 56k

Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
Oldham seeks to repair relations
Two youths inspect a burnt-out car
Residents of Oldham are surveying the damage
Police and community leaders in Oldham have been meeting to try to dampen tensions after three nights of racial violence.

Riots in the Greater Manchester town - some of the worst seen in Britain in a decade - have seen 49 white and Asian people arrested and several injured.

Hundreds of police are preparing for a fourth night of patrolling local streets.

But with the police reporting success in quelling the worst of the violence, efforts have turned to restoring community relations.

Khurshid Ahmed, of the Pakistani Cultural Association, said: "People have to start working together. We need regular meetings with people at the bottom level in the community."

No-one could have predicted the ferocity and seriousness of the violence at the weekend

Greater Manchester Police
Trouble has been brewing since reports that Asian youths, critical of the police response to attacks on their community, had planned to create "no-go zones" for white people.

Community leader Abdul Basit-Shah said: "The National Front have caused the problem and broke the relationship between communities and the police."

The police also lay much of the blame on far-right groups for exploiting tensions between the town's whites and Asians - mainly Pakistani, Kashmiri and Bangladeshi.

Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Alan Bridge said part of the problem had been "brought about by the intervention of outside elements" operating under the guise of "raising political awareness".

Video evidence

But Chief Superintendent Eric Hewitt said police had done everything possible to prevent violence.

"A lot of videotape is being examined and we'll be making a lot of arrests in coming days."

He added: "No-one could have predicted the ferocity and seriousness of the violence at the weekend.

"We have been patrolling with extra officers where our Asian communities are, for over a month now.

Riot police
Riot police were out in force on the weekend
"We had extra police officers on duty for the last three weeks targeting National Front and their sympathisers to keep them away from our Asian communities and protecting them. All of that has been a huge success."

Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, said it was "ridiculous" to blame his party for the trouble.

"It's not us who had up to 1,000 people throwing things at the police and attacking their neighbours because they are a different colour," said Mr Griffin, who is contesting the Oldham West seat in the general election.

He said the Asian community had overreacted to an attack on the home of a pregnant Asian woman.

"Days and days of rioting, petrol bombs thrown at the police, white homes attacked and their windows cut through - it's a massively disproportionate response."

The BNP is to field candidates at election time in both Oldham constituencies and in neighbouring Ashton-under-Lyne.

Serious flashpoints

During sporadic violence on Monday night, officers were pelted with bricks and dustbins by a gang of 40 white youths trying to get in to an Asian area.

Some properties and cars were vandalised, and a petrol bomb was thrown into a car showroom.

Officers responded to isolated incidents, an apparent change of tactics following criticism from some Asians that an "excessive" police presence over the weekend helped provoke violence.

The weekend saw several serious flashpoints across the town, with petrol bombs thrown and buildings attacked.

An Asian supermarket was set on fire, the offices of a local newspaper were firebombed, and barricades of furniture and tyres were set alight.

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