|France: Hizbullah not a terror group
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Hizbullah is part of Lebanese politics and must not be regarded as a terror organization, said the French Foreign Ministry in a statement Thursday night.
The statement was an apparent about-turn by France after President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Hizbullah was indeed a terrorist group when he met with the captured IDF soldiers' families in Paris last week. Thursday's statement was prompted by protests from Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
Shortcomings fixed but much work still remains
France is scheduled to host a conference Saturday bringing together representatives of rival Lebanese leaders, including senior Hizbullah representatives, in an effort to address the Lebanon's political deadlock.
The conference, set to continue until Monday, is not expected to achieve any major breakthroughs and has been described more as an icebreaking meeting between foes.
The conference is set to focus on the political crisis in Lebanon revolving around the issue of an international tribunal into the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.
Hizbullah is opposed to such a tribunal that is expected to convict senior officials in Lebanon and Syria.
Meanwhile, the chief investigator in the Hariri assassination said Friday that a UN inquiry had identified people who may have been involved in the murder and and that new information about the buyers of a van used in the bombing was being investigated.
While not identifying anyone, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz said investigators had "significantly narrowed down" possible motives for the slaying to Hariri's political and personal relationships in Lebanon, Syria and other countries.
He said investigators believe the UN Security Council resolution in September 2004 aimed at blocking Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud from a second term "played an important role in shaping the environment in which the motives to assassinate Rafik Hariri emerged."
Lebanon's Parliament ignored the council and voted hours after the resolution was adopted to amend the constitution so Lahoud could keep his job.
Brammertz did not provide any clues to those who may have been involved.
He also said Syria and other states continued to provide "mostly positive responses" to requests for assistance. Syria, which many Lebanese have blamed for the assassination, strongly denies being involved.