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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK
Reid in 'frank' talks with loyalists
Van on fire
It is understood recent violence will be discussed
Senior loyalists have had a "frank and useful discussion" with the Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid at a face-to-face meeting in east Belfast.

Dr Reid said he had not asked for guarantees about street violence during the talks with representatives of some loyalist paramilitary groups on Tuesday which lasted more than two hours.

"There is no doubt at the moment in my mind that there is a lack of confidence particularly among the unionist and loyalist communities," he said.

"I am doing what I can and I hope the Loyalist Commission will be doing what they can to make sure that we continue to resolve all our problems through dialogue, and not through the old ways of violence which are ultimately futile and self defeating."

John Reid: Secretary of State
John Reid: "We must continue to resolve all our problems through dialogue"

However, speaking before the meeting, the secretary of state said his message to those loyalists in attendance would be that he would work with them if they wanted a peaceful and better Northern Ireland.

But he added if they were stuck to the path of violence, he would oppose them by every means at his disposal.

The Methodist Church sent out invitations to Dr Reid and members of the loyalist umbrella organisation, the Loyalist Commission.

The meeting came against the backdrop of recent widespread violence in Belfast and ahead of Sunday's Orange Order parade at Drumcree in Portadown.

In recent years, there has been trouble after the parade at Drumcree.

Community representatives

The convicted leader of the outlawed Ulster Freedom Fighters, Johnny Adair, was among a group of more than 20 loyalists who met with Dr Reid.

It is the first time the secretary of state has met with UDA leaders since they declared their ceasefire over last year.

The group is part of the Loyalist Commission, which comprises paramilitary, political and church figures from the Protestant and loyalist traditions.

Church and community representatives from east Belfast were also at the meeting at the East Belfast Mission on the Newtownards Road.

David Trimble: UUP leader
David Trimble: To lead UUP delegation in talks with Tony Blair

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, is to meet the prime minister in London on Wednesday.

It is expected that the UUP delegation will continue to press Tony Blair to take action against paramilitary activity across Northern Ireland.

The meeting takes place ahead of discussions involving Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern at Hillsborough in County Down on Thursday.

The secretary of state has previously met members of the Loyalist Commission.

Last month, loyalist paramilitaries vowed not to initiate any violence against republican communities in an effort to defuse tensions in interface areas of Belfast.

In a statement from the Loyalist Commission, the paramilitaries pledged to adhere to a "no first strike" policy.

The commission called for "reciprocation" from republicans to ensure the initiative worked.

The Loyalist Commission was set up to give political analysis to the paramilitary groups. It followed the dissolution of the Ulster Democratic Party, which was linked to the Ulster Defence Association.

Ulster Unionists, church leaders and representatives of the UDA and the Ulster Volunteer Force are among those who sit on the commission.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Mark Simpson
"According to sources inside the meeting, the dialogue was constructive"
See also:

14 Jun 02 | N Ireland
10 Jun 02 | N Ireland
10 Jun 02 | N Ireland
10 Jun 02 | N Ireland
08 Jun 02 | N Ireland
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