London, Asharq Al-Awsat-Almost three months after Britain announced it would pursue a more open policy toward the political wing of Hezbollah; the first public meeting took place last Thursday between the two sides. British Ambassador to Lebanon Frances Mary Guy visited Hezbollah Deputy Muhammad Raid in his office in parliament in central Beirut. It was the first meeting at this level between the two sides.
A Hezbollah official asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that the meeting was held at Britain’s request while a British Foreign Office source said the timing after the elections was a coincidence and that the two sides had agreed to hold a meeting some time ago but did not have the time for this until now and referred to Hezbollah’s preoccupation with the preparations for the elections. The British official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the meeting was held to review viewpoints and the discussions dealt with the internal Lebanese situations and focused on three specific points: The Lebanese elections, the expectations about forming the future government, and Security Council Resolution 1701(which calls for disarming Hezbollah). The official said the last clause in Resolution 1701 is what interests Britain most in the three points that were discussed. It added that the British ambassador specifically stressed her country’s viewpoint concerning this resolution and called for its full implementation.
The UN Security Council issued the resolution at the end of the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah which ended the war. It called on the Lebanese state to impose its authority on all Lebanese territories and also called on all the armed forces in Lebanon outside the state’s framework to hand over their weapons.
The British Foreign Office official did not confirm whether the two sides agreed to hold more meetings but Raid, who usually represents Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah at the negotiating tables held in Lebanon in the presence of leaders, said this meeting “might constitute the prelude for other meetings” and pointed out that “the doors are open to this.”
The British official denied yesterday that the talks with Raid dealt with any external issues and stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Britain did not raise the issue of British hostages in Iraq.