LONDON, March 6 (UPI) -- Four years after breaking off relations, Britain says it will re-establish contact with the political wing of the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
A British Foreign Office spokesman who announced the move said the change had been discussed in advance with the United States, The New York Times reported Friday.
Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said Britain would take up "carefully selected" contacts with Hezbollah's political wing but would continue to shun the organization's military wing.
"It is an interesting and positive development," Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said to the newspaper. "Once the U.S. starts talking with Syria and Iran, Hezbollah will be a difficult issue and Britain's opening up a direct channel with Hezbollah now could help defuse that."
Britain, along with European nations, has long favored a broader dialog with countries and groups in the Middle East regarded as adversaries of Israel, experts told the Times.