Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 17:22 UK

UK envoy in first Hezbollah talks

Lebanese MP Mohammed Raad of Hezbollah and British ambassador to Lebanon Frances Guy
Raed and Guy met amid what the FCO called positive developments in Lebanon

The British ambassador in Lebanon has held her first meeting with a senior official from the Hezbollah movement.

The contact follows the UK's decision to allow talks with political members of the Shia militant and political movement for the first time since 2005.

The British government said the elections and the formation of the new Lebanese government were discussed.

After the meeting, a Hezbollah spokesman said he believed "the doors are open to further meetings."

The British government has had no contact with Hezbollah since relations were broken off in 2005. Last year the military wing was added to a list of proscribed terror organisations.

But in March 2009, the Foreign Office agreed to restart looking at ways to make contact with the political wing, including MPs, after what it called "positive developments" in Lebanon.

Ambassador Frances Guy and Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad are also said to have discussed the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which was passed in 2006 and ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah.

The British Foreign Office says that the ambassador pressed for full implementation, especially in relation to disarmament of non-state actors such as Hezbollah.

The resolution called for disarmament on all sides but Hezbollah has yet to relinquish its weapons.

Support for the group held up well in the recent Lebanese election, although the bloc it leads failed to gain ground on the Western-backed Sunni Muslim-led and Christian majority, as some analysts had predicted.

In the last government, Hezbollah held a veto-wielding share of cabinet seats under a power sharing agreement struck a year ago as the country stood on many thought to be the brink of civil war.

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