US diplomat to lead fresh talks
An American diplomat is to lead a fresh round of talks aimed at resolving some of the most divisive issues in Northern Ireland.
Richard Haass, a former US envoy to the region, was appointed to chair the all-party talks on flags, parades and the past.
In a statement the First and Deputy First Ministers said Dr Haass was the agreed choice as chairman among the five parties represented in the power-sharing Stormont Executive.
In a joint statement Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness said: "We are deeply grateful that an international figure of Dr Haass's standing has agreed to facilitate these important discussions which we hope will provide long-term and sustainable solutions that are in the best interests of the community."
It is hoped the all-party group will bring forward a set of recommendations by the end of this year on contentious issues such as parades and protests, flags, symbols, emblems and related matters stemming from the past which were not dealt with in the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.
Dr Haass was US envoy to Northern Ireland in 2001-03 during George Bush's tenure as president.
He heads the Council on Foreign Relations, a US based independent think-tank.
Retired US senator George Mitchell led Northern Ireland's 1996-98 peace talks.