Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has made a public apology for any offence caused to Muslims by his defence of a controversial preacher.

Mr Robinson said he did not find it difficult to use the word sorry.

He faced strong criticism after defending fundamentalist Christian pastor James McConnell.

Mr McConnell said Islam was a satanic religion and claimed cells of Muslims were organised in Britain in the way the IRA operated during the Troubles.

Mr Robinson met leaders of the Muslim community in Belfast tonight.

He said: "I made it very clear to the people present tonight that I apologise for any offence that I might have caused.

"The very last thing that I would have ever had in my mind would be to cause anyone hurt or distress or to insult them and I make that publicly clear as well in the clearest possible terms.

"I cannot spend the rest of my life apologising but what I can do is spend the rest of my life building the united community that I believe we want in Northern Ireland."