PARIS (Reuters) – Rival Lebanese politicians met at a state-owned chateau near Paris on Saturday in a French-sponsored attempt to discuss ways of ending the 8-month-old political crisis gripping their country. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, hosting the closed-door two-day meeting at the Chateau de Celle-Saint Cloud, first addressed the gathering with a few words in Arabic.

"The minister made an opening statement and then there was a round during which everybody expressed their point of view," a ministry spokeswoman said.The delegates will dine together and resume their talks on Sunday, ending with a news conference in the evening.

About 30 politicians representing parties across Lebanon’s broad political spectrum are at the meeting as well as some civic society leaders. Among the guests are representatives of Hezbollah, making its first official visit to France. "At first we planned to renounce going to Paris because such comments are biased. But a clarifying statement by the French authorities has since rectified things," Hezbollah delegation leader and former Energy Minister Mohammed Fneish told Le Figaro newspaper. The talks could only succeed if all parties accepted the others as partners, he said. "It is exceptional to be meeting again, after all the obstructions," said Ibrahim Kenaan representing General Aoun. The meetings Saturday and Sunday at La Celle Saint Cloud west of Paris mark the first time the 14 parties are meeting since a national dialogue conference in November that failed to resolve the tensions.

The talks have no set agenda. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and other French diplomats were there, but as observers, not mediators.France, Lebanon’s former colonial ruler, is playing a delicate diplomatic game in the volatile region. French envoys discussed plans for the meetings with American and Iranian counterparts