BEIRUT (AFP) June 9 – Factions from across Lebanon’s political divide gave their support Friday to a proposal from former colonial power France to chair informal fence-mending talks. Both the Future Movement, to which beleaguered Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Siniora belongs, and the Free Patriotic Movement of Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun welcomed the offer to try to broker an end to a political deadlock that has paralysed government legislation for nearly seven months.

A Future Movement official who asked not to be identified told AFP that the group "welcomes the initiative.""We are absolutely ready to respond positively to the initiative, once it has been formally made," the official said.Aoun spokesman Simon Abu Ramia told AFP: "We strongly welcome this invitation." He said Aoun had already indicated that he would respond favourably to the proposal when he met French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Paris on May 28.

The French foreign ministry stressed earlier Friday that the proposal to convene talks in late June at a venue still to be decided was merely intended to break the ice between the rival factions.

"This is not intended as a substitute for intra-Lebanese dialogue, nor is it a question of organising a new international conference," a ministry spokesman said.

"The meeting’s only aim is to help the Lebanese come together."