Ireland's Dangerous Standoff

If it wasn't for the modern military hardware being brought to bear, the standoff in Northern Ireland Friday would have all the qualities of a medieval siege, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips.

The British airlifted reinforcements to Drumcree, where Protestants and Catholics stood glaring at each other across a moat and barbed wire.

If Thursday night was any indication, the reinforcements may be needed. The crowd of Protestants -- who have been barred from marching along a traditional route through what's become a Catholic area -- swelled to more than 20,000 and began to press forward. The fireworks followed -- literally.

A homemade shrapnel bomb injured several policemen. Rubber bullets drove the invaders back and British Prime Minister Tony Blair swore to uphold the rule of law. However, with the Protestant marching season about to peak this weekend, worse trouble is feared.

"If his troops come in and start to storm this place what's going to happen?" said one Protestant.

Already Protestant frustration has spilled over to other areas, with firebombs launched at Catholic homes.

"We have been attacked and abused in our homes and we ask that the British government stand up and act responsibly and stop this process. We need to feel safe in our homes," said one audibly distressed Catholic.

The current danger is that all the progress toward peace, so painstakingly nurtured in London, Dublin and Belfast, may be undone over a few hundred yards of road in a town called Drumcree. Moderate voices prevailed in promoting the peace agreement -- but extreme voices are now beginning to drown them out again.

Friday evening, the two sides agreed to attend talks Saturday. But cooling the inflamed passions here will take concessions on both sides that neither has shown a willingness to make.

Reported by Mark Phillips
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