"The minister made an opening statement and then there was a round during which everybody expressed their point of view," a ministry spokeswoman said.

   

The delegates will dine together and resume their talks on Sunday, ending with a news conference in the evening.

 

Hezbollah participation

 

Among the guests are representatives of the Shia group Hezbollah, making its first official visit to France.

   

Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war against Israel last year and still holds captive two Israeli soldiers, nearly cancelled its participation after Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, linked the group to terrorism.

   

"At first we planned to renounce going to Paris because such comments are biased. But a clarifying statement by the French authorities has since rectified things," Mohammed Fneish, the Hezbollah delegation leader and former Energy Minister, told Le Figaro newspaper.

   

The talks could only succeed if all parties accepted the others as partners, he said.

 

The impasse

        

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 impasse have failed and with a divided parliament set to elect a new president from September 24, former colonial power France intervened.

   

Many in Beirut fear that if no compromise is reached before the presidential election, Lebanon will be plunged into a power vacuum or be saddled with two rival administrations.

   

The country has been in turmoil since the 2005 assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former prime minister, and the hurried pullout of Syrian forces after a 29-year presence.