Hezbollah MP Meets British Diplomat for 1st Time

Hezbollah parliamentary leader Mohammad Raad met British ambassador Frances Guy on Thursday in the first such contact in Lebanon between the group’s political wing and a senior British official.

"The talks covered the recent election and the situation in the region," Hezbollah said in a statement.

"I believe the doors are open to further meetings," Raad told AFP.

In March, Britain authorized low-level contact with the political wing of Hezbollah.

London has had no official talks with Hezbollah since 2005, and last July added its military wing to a blacklist of designated terror groups.

The British embassy confirmed that the talks had covered local politics. "Basically the meeting covered the elections and the formation of a new government," an embassy press officer told AFP.

Lebanon’s outgoing government of national unity was to hold its last meeting on Thursday before parliament is dissolved later this month to make way for the new legislature elected in a June 7 poll, in which a Hezbollah-led alliance lost the election to a Lebanese coalition.

The meeting also covered United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, the press officer said.

Resolution 1701, passed unanimously in 2006, ended a devastating 34-day Israeli war against Lebanon, aimed at destroying Hezbollah. The resolution demanded the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon but Hezbollah has retained its arsenal insisting it is needed for resistance against Israel.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman in London said her country would hold talks with Hezbollah members "who are legitimately involved in Lebanese politics and those who are involved in violence and supporting terrorism."

"Our objective with Hezbollah remains unchanged: that they reject violence and play a constructive, democratic and peaceful role in Lebanese politics, in line with the U.N. Security Council resolutions," she told AFP.

"We believe that occasional and carefully considered contact with Hezbollah’s politicians, including its MPs, will best advance this objective," she added.

"We will be taking a pragmatic approach to speaking to known moderates, political figures who to the best of our knowledge have no links with acts of violence."

(Agencies, Alarabiya.net and PC)

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