Fri, Jan 04, 2008 - Page 6 News List

French mediation with Syria still on: Nasrallah

AFP , BEIRUT

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday that France's mediation with Syria on Lebanon's political crisis would go on despite the two countries breaking off contacts over the issue.

The head of the pro-Syrian Shiite militant group said in an interview with Lebanese television that "France's mediation has not finished, despite President Nicolas Sarkozy inappropriately raising the tone" of the talks by officially halting contacts with Syria.

"The French and the Syrians are attempting to arrive at a compromise ... but if this mediation fails, there will not be others, and the opposition will mobilize using all peaceful means possible," he said without providing further details.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem announced on Wednesday that Syria was breaking off contacts with France on the political crisis in Lebanon, responding to a similar gesture by Paris three days ago.

He said that Syria had been surprised by Sarkozy's announcement on Sunday that France was cutting contacts, as it came just two days after Damascus had reached agreement with Paris on a comprehensive deal to end the crisis.

Sarkozy accused Syria on Sunday of failing to match its words about wanting a settlement to the crisis in Lebanon with deeds on the ground.

Lebanon's Syrian and Iranian-backed opposition has been campaigning for a government of national unity ever since November 2006, when its six ministers quit the Cabinet and launched a sit-in outside the government offices.

Also in Wednesday's interview, Nasrallah said that negotiations were ongoing on the possible release of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.

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