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EU Foreign Ministers to Discuss Blacklisting Hizbullah

Monday could be a crucial day for Hizbullah, as EU foreign ministers may decide to blacklist the group’s so-called “military wing.”
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/22/2013, 5:15 AM

Hizbullah supporters in Lebanon (illustrative)
Hizbullah supporters in Lebanon (illustrative)
AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat

Monday could be a crucial day for the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terror group, as European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels may decide to blacklist the group’s so-called “military wing.”

Britain has sought to persuade its EU peers since May to put the group's military wing on the bloc's terrorism list, citing evidence that it was behind a deadly bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria last year.

The EU has resisted pressure to blacklist the group, noting that it has an active political wing that is an important part of the government in Lebanon.

Diplomats speaking to the Reuters news agency on Sunday, however, said the opposition to such a move is fading.

"There are still reservations, but we are moving towards what could be a decision on the possible listing," a senior EU official told the news agency.

"The number of member states which have difficulties with a possible decision has been slowly diminishing," added the official.

Last week it was reported that a compromise proposed by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, would blacklist Hizbullah’s military wing while leaving the EU open to talking with its political faction.

Diplomats said last week that the proposal by Ashton suggests including a statement the EU "should continue dialogue with all political parties in Lebanon" and maintain funding to Beirut.

Blacklisting Hizbullah’s military wing would mean the freezing of any assets it may hold in the 28-nation bloc, though officials say there is scant information on the extent of Hizbullah’s presence in Europe or on its assets.

Bulgaria commemorated last Thursday the one-year anniversary of the Burgas attack which killed six Israelis, and called for sanctions against Hizbullah.

At a ceremony to mark the six dead and 35 wounded in the attack, Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said the EU should "work towards a consensus decision that would allow... the military wing of Hizbullah to be added to its list of terror organizations."

Lebanon, at the same time, has demanded that the European Union keep Hizbullah off its list of terror organizations.

Hizbullah, the Lebanese government said in a letter to the EU, “is an essential component of Lebanese society.” In a statement from the government, Lebanon said that if the EU did put the group on the terror list, it would be doing it without proof that Hizbullah was actually a terror group, and that the decision was unfair.