BELFAST (Reuters) - At least 13 police were injured in clashes between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland on Sunday in a dispute over the rights of the two communities to hold parades in the area.

Police fired water cannon after protesters from both sides threw bottles and stones at officers trying to separate the rival groups in north Belfast. At least three officers were taken to hospital, a police spokeswoman said.

The disturbances followed a march by a Catholic Irish nationalist band in an area where pro-British Protestant groups were recently barred from marching.

Last weekend seven police officers were hurt in the same area when a Protestant band marched past a Catholic church playing music in defiance of a ban from the parades commission, which regulates marches in the province.

Since a peace agreement was signed in 1998, paramilitary violence between the province's Catholics and Protestants, which had raged on and off for three decades, has largely ended, but much of Belfast remains divided along sectarian lines.

Riots often erupt during the summer months when pro-British Protestant groups hold traditional parades that are seen as provocative by Catholic Irish nationalists, many of whom want to be part of a united Ireland.

(Reporting by Ivan Little; Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Jon Hemming)