Britain Says Open to Talks With Hezbollah

Britain said Wednesday it was prepared to engage in direct contacts with the political wing of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, after it became part of a national unity government there last year.

London has had no official talks with Hezbollah since 2005, and last July added its military wing to a blacklist of designated terrorist groups.

"We have reconsidered the position ... in light of more positive developments within Lebanon," Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell told a parliamentary committee. "For that reason we have explored establishing contacts."

Rammell said he was referring to the formation in July last year of a unity government in which Hezbollah and its allies hold effective veto power, as agreed under a deal that ended a paralyzing political conflict in the country.

Rammell said there had already been a "first meeting," between a delegation of lawmakers from the main opposition Conservative party visiting Lebanon and a Lebanese parliamentary delegation which included a member of Hezbollah.

"We will look to have further discussions and our overriding objective in that is to press Hezbollah to play a more constructive role and move away from violence," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.