Israeli President Shimon Peres urged the European Union on Thursday to formally label Hizbullah as a terrorist organization.
Peres told the European body Thursday at a meeting held in its Brussels headquarters that Hizbullah, which so far has remained off its official list of terrorist groups, would only be encouraged to expand its operations unless it were labeled as such, AFP reported.
The president said Hizbullah is now intervening directly in Syria against rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, and thus is spreading its reach.
“If you do not take measures against Hizbullah, then they may think they are permitted” to do as they please, Peres said after a meeting with European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.
“I know this is not the EU’s intention,” he added, replying to a question about Europe’s stance. The president said he hoped Hizbullah “is called to order ... It should be stopped, it is terror; it does not have any other name,” he declared.
Barroso responded that designating the Lebanon-based group as a terrorist organization required ‘careful assessment’ and was first and foremost and decision for member states.
“We are extremely concerned,” Barroso said, referring to an attack last year on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, which the government has blamed directly on Hizbullah.
The issue is sensitive given the sharp differences between EU members and U.S. pressure for change. Britain favors blacklisting the terrorist organization but France and Italy are believed to be reluctant.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the bloc to follow Washington’s lead and declare Hizbullah a terrorist entity so as to help crack down on its fund raising activities. The group, which is generously patronized by Iran, has been listed on the U.S. terror blacklist since 1995.