The new First Minister, Peter Robinson, and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, today start talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to try to resolve key issues troubling the peace process.

Sinn Féin will be looking for a date certain for the devolution of policing from London to Belfast, while the DUP will likely call for the elimination of the vestiges of the Provisional IRA.

The 26-County government will be represented at the London talks by Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin.

The parties are due to reconvene at further talks today [Friday] of next week at which 26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen is exepcted to be present.

The talks will be tough, including issues like education, the Irish language, and the operation of the political institutions. The outcome is uncertain and Sinn Féin has said warned it could withdraw from the Belfast Assembly should the talks fail.

There had been feverish speculation this week that Sinn Féin might refuse to support the nominations yesterday of Robinson and McGuinness because of the DUP’s refusal to implement aspects of the 2006 St Andrew’s Agreement.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Robinson, who is expected to name his party’s ministers on Monday, said that the DUP’s use of its veto was not a stranglehold on political progress but “simply an indication of a failure to agree”.

“Let me make it clear, I did not negotiate these changes as a weapon to be used against other parties but as a safeguard, for as long as it is needed, of the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Robinson.

“The truth is that unless we can create a shared society we will not truly have turned the corner as a people. So - if I can rework the words of Abraham Lincoln, uttered almost 150 years ago - let us strive on to finish the work we are in and bind up the wounds of our divided community.”

Mr McGuinness said the north was entering a new phase.

“As far as I am concerned the honeymoon period is over. This is now about hard work. People out there are expecting results. We come here to deliver for the people,” he said.

“Our people want an end to division and to be valued equally. As an Irish republican I want equality for everyone, not just republicans and nationalists.

“We must promote tolerance and celebrate our cultural and linguistic diversity.”

* British Civil servants in the North of Ireland spent more money translation and interpretation services for Cypriot Greek last year than they did for Irish, it has emerged.

Of the total spend in 2007 of 1.2 million pounds, just over a thousand pounds was spent on translation into Irish while almost two thousand was spent on Cypriot Greek and a similar amount was spent on the African language Urdu.

Up to 200,000 people in the north are thought to be Irish speakers to some degree with a recognised Gaeltacht area in west Belfast.

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