Lebanon, Hizbullah hold talks on possible disarmament

Lebanese PM reveals unofficial contacts held; discusses disarmament of Palestinian factions with Abbas.

abbas saniora 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
abbas saniora 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora revealed on Tuesday that Lebanon and Hizbullah have begun a round of unofficial talks regarding the possibility that the group would disarm, Israel Radio reported. Earlier, Saniora and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas agreed at a UN-sponsored meeting in Paris that unrestricted movements of weapons and gunmen in Palestinian refugee camps were harmful to Lebanon. In a joint statement issued after the 45-minute long talks, the two leaders expressed "great concern" about the flow of weapons and militant groups in refugee camps, which "negatively influence the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon." Abbas told reporters that Palestinians should remember that they are guests in Lebanon and are not above the law. Saniora said the presence of armed Palestinian factions outside Lebanon's refugee camps is "not helpful," and that officials need more talks on how to contain weapons within the camps. "We expressed our views that the presence of armed personnel and armaments outside the camps is not necessary and not helpful," Saniora said. "As for the presence of armed personnel within the camps, this is going to be looked at in order to organize it." Last year, a UN resolution called for disarming all militants in Lebanon, including Palestinian groups and Hizbullah. Some Palestinians, however, have strong feelings against surrendering any arms in Lebanon's changing political climate. Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN special envoy on Syria-Lebanon, arrived in Paris for separate meetings with Saniora and Abbas on the question of Palestinian militias in Lebanon and other issues related to implementation of the September 2004 U.N. resolution, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. Roed-Larsen will travel to London on Tuesday to confer with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and other British officials before returning to New York. After the talks, Abbas was to leave for Madrid, Spain, then head to Washington. Saniora, in town for a two-day visit, was met Tuesday with French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. Lebanon has more than 350,000 Palestinians, who are refugees from the 1948 war that created Israel and their descendants. They are crammed into 12 impoverished and often violent camps in Beirut and across Lebanon. The Lebanese army has no control over the camps and does not go in, fearing bloodshed. Syria's pullout from Lebanon has prompted armed Palestinian factions to negotiate with Lebanon over giving up some weapons - a key UN and American demand that would have been unthinkable before the Syrian withdrawal in late April.