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ARAB EUROPEAN RELATIONS - July 24 - Britain Plays Down Contacts With Hizbullah.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband played down British contacts with

Hizbullah lawmakers, saying they are not negotiating with the leadership of the group. Amid reports of US discontent over London's decision to open low-level contact with the political wing of Hizbullah, a group viewed as terrorists in Washington, Miliband said Britain was committed to the group's disarmament. "We decided last summer that we would resume contact with carefully selected Hizbullah MPs" after the group joined the Lebanese national unity government, he said. "We are not conducting negotiations with the leadership of Hizbullah". Speaking at a news conference in London after talks with Syrian FM Walid al-Moallem, Miliband confirmed Britain's ambassador in Damascus had attended two meetings with Hizbullah MPs. "Our intention has been first of all to reiterate our commitment to all aspects of Resolution 1701, including the need to demobilize militias", he said. "At the same time we are ready to listen to what the Hizbullah MPs have to say". Resolution 1701, passed unanimously in 2006, ended Israel's 34-day war on Lebanon. It demands the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon. But Hizbullah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, retains its arsenal. Miliband said he and Moallem had discussed the recent Lebanese election, in which a Hizbullah-led alliance lost the election to a Western-backed coalition, and applauded the "relatively good security" during the campaign. A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in March he was unhappy with Britain's overtures to Hizbullah. He said he would like the British to explain to him "the difference between the political, military and social wings of Hizbullah because we don't see a difference between the integrated leadership that they see".

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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 25, 2009
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