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French envoy meets Hezbollah

Dec. 16, 2011 at 10:01 AM

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A French envoy met with Hezbollah officials after the government in Paris said it believed the Shiite group was linked to an attack in southern Lebanon.

A forensics team working with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon was sent to the southern city of Tyre after five peacekeepers were injured in an explosion last week.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack. The incident isn't uncommon in southern Lebanon, however.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe last weekend said he thought it was likely the attack was ordered by Syria and planned by Hezbollah, which has a strong presence in southern Lebanon.

French Ambassador to Lebanon Denis Peitton met with Hezbollah officials Friday to discuss security in southern Lebanon. Embassy officials told The Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon the discussions focused on UNIFIL operations and tensions in neighboring Syria, a strong ally of Hezbollah.

Syria said it wasn't behind the attack, though there have been border incidents related to the ongoing violence in Syria. Hezbollah, the Lebanese newspaper notes, said the French allegations were dangerous.

U.S. and Lebanese officials, meanwhile, discussed military aid for Lebanese forces during recent talks. Beirut said a strong national military would diminish the influence of an armed Hezbollah.

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