French Socialist detained by Hezbollah in Lebanon for several hours

Other News Materials 27 April 2008 19:28 (UTC +04:00)

A French Socialist official attending a conference in Lebanon was detained for four hours by members of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement near Beirut's International Airport, the dpa reported.

Karim Pakzad told a press conference he was touring an area near a Hezbollah stronghold in a convertible car and taking pictures when he was detained Saturday along with a companion and interrogated for four hours before they were both released.

A Hezbollah official confirmed the incident, saying, Pakzad had been detained by the group "because he was taking pictures near the house of a Hezbollah official."

Pakzad, representing the French Socialist Party, had been attending a two-day Socialist International conference in Beirut and said he wanted to see different parts of Lebanon at the end of the meeting.

"We passed by a magnificent mosque ... and I took pictures of some Hezbollah posters," he told a press conference Sunday.

Hezbollah usually bans anyone passing through their strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs from taking pictures without prior permission from their press office.

Pakzad told police that he was on the road leading to Beirut International Airport when two people travelling behind him on a motorcycle stopped him and led him to an unknown location for questioning.

Anti-Syrian Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who is also the head of the Lebanese Socialist Progressive Party (PSP), condemned the incident, saying, "this is really an abnormal situation."

Jumblatt accused Hezbollah of "being a state within a state."

He said the French official had been taking pictures of Hezbollah posters on the way. "I don't think these are military installations," Jumblatt said.

Lebanon is currently divided between the anti-Syrian governing majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition. The country has been without a president since November 23 because of the political deadlock between the two sides.

Lebanon's Shiite House speaker Nabih Berri, a close ally of Hezbollah on Saturday gave May 13 as a new date for the parliament to meet to try to elect a new president for the country.