Solana's Hizbullah meeting irks Israel

Group's lawmaker briefs top EU official on alleged IAF forays over Lebanon, Israeli spy networks.

solana Hizbullah 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
solana Hizbullah 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A senior European Union diplomat's meeting with a Hizbullah legislator in Beirut drew harsh condemnation from Israel on Saturday. "This is unprecedented and demands clarification," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal said, of the meeting between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Hizbullah lawmaker Hussein Hajj Hassan. The meeting marked the first time a senior EU diplomat met with the Iranian-backed terror organization. Palmor pointed to a 2005 European Parliament resolution that noted that "clear evidence exists of terrorist activities by Hizbullah" and calls on the EU Council to "take all necessary steps to curtail them." That resolution passed 473-33 in the parliament, but was not binding on EU policymakers. "The European Parliament has already ruled that Hizbullah is a terror organization," said Palmor. "It would be appropriate for the [EU] Commission to listen to the parliament on this issue." Palmor noted that the gesture to Hizbullah came on the day when the world learned of the landslide reelection victory of the Holocaust-denying president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "Hizbullah is one of few organizations that welcomed this development. This should to be food for thought for the European Commission," he said. The meeting between Solana and Hassan was part of an outreach by European powers to Hizbullah. Britain has also had contacts in recent months with Hizbullah's political wing, in what it has described as an attempt to encourage the group to abandon violence and play a constructive political role in the deeply divided country. But Hizbullah's political standing is uncertain in the wake of a major setback in last week's Lebanese parliamentary elections. The pro-Western coalition that defeated it could form a national unity government that includes Hizbullah and its partners. Fears that a Hizbullah victory could have increased the influence of the group's Iranian backers reportedly helped to swing the vote against it. Hassan called his meeting with the EU's Javier Solana a "goodwill gesture from the European Union toward Hizbullah." The meeting, he said, was an attempt by the EU "to get to know Hizbullah better and to keep contacts with it." Solana's Mideast tour will also include talks on attempts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. His discussions with Lebanese officials focused on the results of the country's parliamentary election and efforts to form a new government. The United States shuns Hizbullah. Asked about the divergence between the EU and US approach to Hizbullah, Solana said, "Hizbullah is part of political life in Lebanon and is represented in the Lebanese parliament." Hassan said he briefed Solana on what he said were Israel's almost daily military flights over Lebanon and spoke of the alleged Israeli spy networks in Lebanon. Lebanese authorities have arrested about 100 people suspected of spying for, or collaborating with Israel in recent weeks. The lawmaker also told Solana that the sensitive issue of whether to disarm Hizbullah was being dealt with in broad political discussions led by President Michel Suleiman. Political factions have so far failed to agree on a defense strategy that would integrate Hizbullah's arsenal of rockets, which are aimed at Israeli cities, into the Lebanese armed forces. Hizbullah has rejected local and international calls to disarm, saying its weapons are essential to defend Lebanon against any Israeli attack.