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Serious Splits Within Hezbollah May Complicate Release of Hostages

Conflicting actions taken by various groups holding Western hostages in Lebanon point to serious splits within the Hezbollah, or Party of God.

Iran may no longer be able to control certain factions in the Shi’ite fundamentalist movement, according to an analysis in Ha’aretz.

The rifts may delay the start of negotiations for the release of all foreign hostages, including the Israeli prisoners, the Israeli daily warned.

Some new branches of the Hezbollah have chosen to ally themselves with Damascus, in light of the deployment of the Syrian-backed Lebanese army in southern Lebanon. Others have actually established contacts with Western capitals.

Concerned over the implications of such factionalism, the Iranian government, which exerts considerable leverage over the Shi’ite groups, last month summoned a delegation of Hezbollah leaders to Teheran.

An Iranian source reported that the dispute within the Hezbollah leadership has been raging for more than a year. Teheran succeeded in freezing the dispute by appointing Sheik Abbas Musawi as the organization’s secretary-general, replacing Subachi Tufeili.

Nevertheless, the tensions did not abate. While Musawi was busy with organizational matters arising from the Syrian-Lebanese Brotherhood Treaty signed in May, some groups, encouraged by former Iranian Interior Minister Sayed Mohtashemi, attempted to form a radical group within the organization.

On the other side, a moderate group, known as the Damascus Men, has been formed. This group includes the leader of the Shi’ite Amal movement, Hussein Musawi.

This group began pressuring for the gradual release of the hostages.

According to Ha’aretz, the more radical group is responsible for the kidnapping last week of French medical aid worker Jerome Leyraud, who was freed Sunday.

The abduction and threats to kill him if other hostages were released was an aborted attempt to slow the efforts of the moderate Damascus Men group, which may have set in motion the Aug. 8 release of British hostage John McCarthy.

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