Beirut: Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam Monday confirmed that his government is holding direct negotiations with the kidnappers of at least 28 soldiers and policemen abducted in August.
The country`s security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, is in charge of the negotiations for the release of those held by the Islamic State (IS) radical group and Nusra Front militants, Xinhua cited Anahar daily as quoting Salam.
The Lebanese soldiers and police were taken captive by the jihadis after they overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in August.
"We have reached a difficult stage" in the negotiations, Salam said.
His statement came after Salafist Sheikh Mustafa al-Hujeiri, who is also known as Abu Taqiyeh, denied that he had been appointed an official mediator in the negotiations.
Al-Hujeiri has been acting as a liaison between the relatives of the hostages and their captors.
He said his mediation led to the Nusra Front`s decision to postpone the execution of captive soldier Ali al-Bazzal.
Following five days of deadly clashes between the Lebanese army and fundamentalist gunmen from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and the IS in Arsal in August, the two jihadi groups withdrew to Syria after taking with them at least 28 soldiers and policemen as hostages.
The Nusra Front later executed two soldiers while the IS beheaded another.