Hezbollah won't meet Carter

2008-12-10 18:36

Beirut - Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah has refused to meet visiting former US president Jimmy Carter to discuss legislative elections set for the spring, Carter's spokesperson said on Wednesday.

"We have sought meetings with all the main parliamentary blocs and parties in the upcoming election and Hezbollah was one of those meetings we had requested," said Rick Jasculca, a spokesperson for the Carter Centre.

"Hezbollah declined the request," he added without providing further detail.

A main focus of Carter's four-day visit is to discuss with the country's rival political factions the possibility of providing election observers from his center for the elections next spring.

Hezbollah officials contacted by AFP would not comment on Carter's request for a meeting.

"Hezbollah does not meet with anyone from a US administration which supports Zionist terrorism," said Mohamed Raad, head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc.

But he added that his group is not opposed to election monitors being sent to Lebanon to oversee the parliamentary vote.

"We are not concerned with election monitoring, we don't reject it," Raad said. "We will accept whatever decision the cabinet takes."

The international community has made it clear it will closely watch the parliamentary elections that could well see a majority grabbed by Hezbollah, viewed in Washington as a terrorist organisation, and its allies.

Such a scenario would deal a major blow to the Western-backed ruling parties in parliament which rode to power in 2005 amid a wave of anti-Syrian sentiment following the assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

Damascus has denied any role in the killing.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, has veto power over major decisions in the national unity government formed in July following a political crisis that brought Lebanon to the brink of civil war.

The crisis was defused following a Qatari-brokered deal in May that led to army commander Michel Sleiman being elected president, the formation of a national unity government and the drawing up of a new electoral law.