June 12, 2007 / 6:19 PM / 12 years ago

Hezbollah willing to attend France meeting: sources

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese group Hezbollah is willing to attend a meeting this month in France aimed at breaking a seven-month-long political stalemate in Lebanon, political sources said on Tuesday.

French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran ended a two-day visit to Beirut after meeting rival leaders who have been mired in Lebanon’s worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Cousseran, a former ambassador, invited leaders of the governing coalition and opposition, which includes factions allied to Syria and Iran such as Hezbollah, to send representatives to the meeting.

“Hezbollah has expressed a willingness to send an envoy for the talks in France,” a political source said.

The France meeting, due to take place later this month, is not expected to draw top Lebanese leaders nor is it expected to end the standoff.

But France has said the gathering aims to encourage the renewal of dialogue between the Lebanese factions and it may serve to break the ice.

The majority coalition which controls the Western-backed government has welcomed the French initiative.

A senior source from the opposition also said it would take part in the meeting, though without high expectations.

The Lebanese are split over U.N. plans for an international tribunal for suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and the opposition’s demand for veto power in cabinet.

The majority coalition, led by Hariri’s son, has accused the opposition of trying to block the court being set up in order to protect Damascus. It accuses Syria of the killing and other attacks in Lebanon, though Damascus denies these charges.

The political deadlock had blocked full constitutional approval of plans for the tribunal which is strongly supported by France and the United States.

The Security Council last month voted to set it up unilaterally — a move which some analysts say may now allow the Lebanese to agree on other issues dividing them.

The United Nations began work on the court on Monday after the Security Council had voted to set up the tribunal on June 10.

The crisis has fuelled sectarian tensions in Lebanon between Sunni Muslims loyal to Saad al-Hariri — leader of the majority coalition — and Shi’ite Muslim supporters of Shi’ite groups Hezbollah and the Amal movement.

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