The White House said Tuesday that both Hamas and Hezbollah must renounce violence and recognize Israel before they can expect even low-level US engagement. "Hezbollah is acting as a state within a state," the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat quoted a U.S. official as saying.
He said U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman met with Deputy Head of the Supreme Shiite Council Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan in Beirut last week in order to make clear to him that President Barack Obama was committed to Lebanon's sovereignty and independence.
The official told al-Hayat that the mission of U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell includes achieving comprehensive peace on all tracks: Israeli-Palestinian, Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli.
The comments came after US ally Britain confirmed last week that it had authorized low-level contact with the political wing of Hezbollah, the Lebanese resistance group. "The president has stated on a number of occasions that, in order for anything like that to happen, there are certain responsibilities that those individual organizations have," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
Those requirements include recognizing “the right of Israel to exist” and renouncing "terrorist activities," he said, also referring to the Islamic resistance Palestinian group Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip. "There are activities and responsibilities that have to be undertaken by those organizations well before this administration can render a judgment," Gibbs said.
The State Department said last week that the United States was not ready to follow Britain's move. Britain has had no official talks with Hezbollah since 2005, and last July added its military wing to a blacklist of designated so-called “terror groups”.