Lebanon rivals hold talks in France

Political talks kick-off as army pushes deeper into Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.

    Lebanese soldiers advanced into the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp for the first time on Sunday [Reuters]
    He said the parties had pledged not to use violence for political ends and rejected domination from forces outside Lebanon, but there were no specifics.
     
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    A series of reports on the Middle East one year after the war in Lebanon

    Lebanon has been paralysed by the crisis that erupted last November when six opposition ministers quit the government over the refusal of Fouad Siniora, the prime minister, to give the Hezbollah-led opposition veto power in his Western-backed cabinet.
     
    All efforts to break the standoff have failed and with a divided parliament set to elect a new president from September 24.
     
    Sunday's talks saw some 30 politicians meeting for the first time after a dialogue last November failed to resolve the country's worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
     
    Among the guests at the two-day meeting over the weekend were representatives of the Shia group Hezbollah - backed by Iran and Syria - which was making its first official visit to France.
     
    Kouchner said Hezbollah representatives had told him that the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped last year were still alive, and talks were being held with the UN.
     
    Advancing army
     

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    "Unless Lebanese factions put national interests above their factional interests, the country is sleep- walking into a new civil war"

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    Meanwhile in Lebanon, the army said it was gaining ground inside the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp where fighting with members of Fatah al-Islam has been raging for nine weeks.
     
    A military spokesperson said troops gained control of several buildings once used by the fighters.
     
    On Sunday, the army pounded suspected Fatah al-Islam hideouts with artillery shells and tank fire, prompting machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades in return, officials said.
     
    Two more soldiers were killed, pushing the number of military deaths to 100.
     
    At least 80 Fatah al-Islam fighters have been killed so far.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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