Water cannon used in fifth night of N. Ireland violence

BELFAST, United Kingdom (AFP) - Police officers in Northern Ireland used water cannon after coming under attack from rioters for a fifth consecutive night on Monday.

Intermittent disorder has blighted Belfast since the city council's decision on Dec 3 to limit the number of days it flies the British flag, or Union flag, above the City Hall.

Around 1,000 protesters held a peaceful demonstration outside the City Hall on Monday as councillors held their first meeting since last month's decision.

But elsewhere in the city, police used water cannon after coming under fire from a hail of masonry and petrol bombs as they tried to separate rival loyalist and republican groups on the city's Newtownards Road.

Northern Ireland's chief police officer Matt Baggott earlier accused the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) of orchestrating the violence.

Loyalists believe last month's ruling to fly the flag on certain designated days was a concession too far to republicans who want Northern Ireland to be part of Ireland.

The first of these days will be on Wednesday to mark the birthday of the Duchess of Cambridge.

Elected representatives from political parties on both sides have received death threats, the latest being SDLP Assembly member Patsy McGlone.

Nationalist party Sinn Fein's Jim McVeigh said politicians "won't be intimidated by those threats".

"Their protests are pointless and they will have absolutely no impact on decisions that we take," he added.

The flag vote has raised tensions in the province, which was torn apart by three decades of sectarian violence until peace accords in 1998 led to the creation of a power-sharing government between Protestants and Catholics.

More than 60 police officers have been injured and around 100 people arrested since the row began.