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Hezbollah backers pelt U.S. diplomat's convoy

Supporters of militant group Hezbollah attacked a U.S. envoy's motorcade with stones in southern Lebanon, witnesses said on Wednesday.
Image: Lebanese army soldiers sit on their armored personnel carriers
Lebanese soldiers patrol the village of Taalabaya after overnight clashes between pro- and anti-government supporters on Tuesday. Violence also flared on Wednesday as Hezbollah supporters hurled stones at a U.S. envoy's motorcade.Samer Husseini / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Supporters of militant group Hezbollah attacked a U.S. envoy's motorcade with stones in southern Lebanon, witnesses said on Wednesday.

Security officials said no one was hurt in the attack but at least one of the American convoy's 10 bulletproof vehicles was hit and broke down.

The attack occurred Wednesday afternoon after U.S. Charge d'Affaires Michele Sison inspected some projects financed by the U.S. government in the southern market town of Nabatiyeh. It was her first visit to the militant group's stronghold.

Witnesses say about 100 Hezbollah supporters gathered outside a house where Sison was having lunch and began shouting anti-U.S. slogans.

The incident came as Israel urged Lebanon to open peace talks, the latest move in a flurry of developments aimed at easing the multiple conflicts in the region.

Prisoner swap?
Israel's most explicit overture yet toward Lebanon comes just weeks after Israel and Syria confirmed they had relaunched indirect peace talks, ending an eight-year breakdown. Earlier this week, a senior government official confirmed Israel was pursuing a prisoner swap with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, and on Thursday Israel and Gaza Strip militants are to enter into a truce after long negotiations.

Government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was interested in "direct, bilateral" talks and ready to put "every issue of contention" on the table, including a key border dispute over a tiny patch of land Israel controls.

Regev's comments were the government's first response to new U.S. efforts to end the dispute.

Last week, when Olmert hinted Israel would be interested in talks with Beirut, the Lebanese government rejected them. On Wednesday, a Lebanese government official said that position hadn't changed.

In the past, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora has said his country would be the last to make peace with the Jewish state.

Israel fought two wars in Lebanon and occupied an enclave in southern Lebanon for 18 years until 2000. Lebanon joined other Arab nations that invaded the Jewish state upon its creation in 1948, but was a minor player in that war.

In 1983 — a year after Israel launched its first invasion of Lebanon — the two countries signed an agreement terminating their state of war. But that U.S.-backed attempt quickly collapsed because the pro-Israel Lebanese government disintegrated under pressure from neighboring Syria.