Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin had indirect contact with high-level Hizbullah officials throughout 1997-98, reported the Jerusalem Post, quoting a report published in the Swedish newspaper Dedel Smitter.
According to the report, which has not been denied by Beilin, the contact was facilitated by two Swedish academics, Magnus Norell and Magnus Randsdorf, and the dialogue centered around the question of what Hizbullah would do if and when Israel withdrew from Lebanon, said the daily.
According to officials familiar with the story, which appeared Friday in the daily, the initiative for the contact was taken by the academics themselves, who, after meeting once with Beilin and hearing about the possibility of a future withdrawal, took it upon themselves to travel to Lebanon and relay some of the ideas they had heard, said the Jerusalem Post, quoting the report.
Beilin subsequently met with the Swedes about half a dozen times, according to officials, hearing from them ideas relayed by Hizbullah officials.
All of these exchanges took place under the government of former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and, at a later point, with his knowledge, officials were quoted by the Swedish newspaper as saying.
Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak's spokesman, Gadi Baltianksy, in response to the reports, told the Jerusalem Post that no such dialogue or contact has ever gone on under Barak.
"The prime minister never sanctioned any negotiations between Israel and Hizbullah - nor had he been asked to do so," Baltiansky told the daily - Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)