U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned recent acts of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, as she concludes one of her last trips abroad as the top U.S. diplomat.
Clinton spoke in Belfast Friday, saying there will always be disagreements in democratic societies, but violence is never an acceptable response to them. She said all parties in Northern Ireland need to confront the remaining challenges of sectarian division peacefully and together.
She visits Belfast amid renewed tensions in the city between the Protestant and Catholic communities after city lawmakers voted earlier this week not to fly the British flag all year long on government buildings.
Also, police on Friday were interrogating four suspected members of the separatist pro-Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA), on suspicion of transporting an explosive device in the city of Londonderry, 130 kilometers northwest of Belfast. Authorities also discovered a letter bomb in the city of Clough Friday, around 40 kilometers from Belfast.
Thousands of people have died in three decades of sectarian bloodshed between Northern Irish Protestants who want to remain part of the United Kingdom, and Catholics who want to break free of British rule and join Ireland.
On Thursday, Clinton was in Dublin at a meeting with human rights activists where she issued sharp criticism for a number of Eastern European and Central Asian nations. She said they are backsliding on democratic reforms.
Clinton warned that Russia is trying to "re-Sovietize" Eastern Europe and Central Asia by creating a regional trade bloc known as the Eurasian Union. She said the project is really an effort to re-assert Soviet-era controls on the region, and that Washington is working to "slow down or prevent it."