US President George Bush will host Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness at the White House next month, his officials confirmed today.
The White House said the President was looking forward to receiving the Stormont First and Deputy First Ministers on December 7 at the end of their first joint visit to the United States.
Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness are also expected to meet leading US politicians in Washington during their week-long visit and will also travel to New York.
“Over the past several years, the United States has actively supported peace efforts in Northern Ireland, which culminated in the formation of a unified Northern Ireland government,” the White House said.
“This visit marks the first time that Dr Paisley and Martin McGuinness will visit the United States together since taking office.
“The President looks forward to congratulating the two leaders on overcoming years of violent conflict, and for taking the historic path toward a peaceful and prosperous future for all the people of Northern Ireland.”
Power sharing was restored in the North in May of this year – two months after Mr Paisley’s Democratic Unionists and Mr McGuinness’s Sinn Féin cast aside decades of division and agreed to form a new devolved government.
However in recent times, there have been some tensions within the power sharing executive but not between the two parties.
Divisions have opened up between the DUP and Sinn Féin on the one side and the two smallest parties in the administration, the Ulster Unionists and nationalist SDLP.
Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness today welcomed the invitation from President Bush.
Mr McGuinness said many organisations and individuals in the United States had played an important role in helping Northern Ireland achieve an historic agreement which had transformed the political situation.
“We are now building on those relationships to ensure that we deliver the peaceful, fair and prosperous society to which all of our people are entitled,” he said.