Business leaders in Northern Ireland have urged politicians to grasp the opportunity to build confidence as former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass returns to chair key peace process talks.

Dr Haass has set an end of year deadline to find agreement on three contentious issues: flags and emblems, parades and how to address the past.

He is leading talks between members of five political parties to attempt to broker a solution to the issues, which have at times polarised communities and sparked serious violence.

City centre trouble has caused lost trade and Northern Ireland's reputation has suffered internationally from coverage of sporadic sectarian fighting.

Last week, Dr Haass suggested a new flag for Northern Ireland might be one way of sorting out that row, but it received no significant support. 

Business organisations have issued a joint plea for progress to support a "strengthening economic recovery" in 2014.