Hezbollah: to ban or not to ban? Britain pushes EU to designate military wing as terrorists

Britain pushes EU to ban Hezbollah military wing later this month, as opposition to proscribing Lebanon-based group wanes in wake of Bulgaria bus bomb attack

by The Commentator on 11 July 2013 14:48

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The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is reporting Thursday that Britain is pushing the European Union to designate Lebanon-based Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist organisation at an upcoming European summit on July 22.

The move, which would be a landmark volte-face for Europe, marks a slap in the face by British Prime Minister David Cameron to the British Foreign Office, which has long sought to engage with groups such as Hezbollah and Gaza-based Hamas. Both groups are already designated as terror groups by the Obama administration in the United States.

This all comes in the aftermath of a bus bombing in Bulgaria in July last year which killed five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian, with dozens wounded.

The WJC, whose European headquarters are in Brussels, said:

"London has asked for the issue to be put on the agenda of the next EU Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels. It is backed by France and Germany and also by the Netherlands, a country which already designates Hezbollah as a whole as a terror organization."

Previously, France in particularly had been ambivalent about calling Hezbollah a terror group because of the organisation's powerful presence in Lebanese politics. France is the former colonial power in Lebanon.

However, the World Jewish Congress reported that there appears to have been a change of heart among many European governments following the Bulgarian attack, and in view of British diplomatic pressure.

The WJC, the leading representative organisation of Jewish communities across the world, said:

"A diplomat from one EU country that had doubts about blacklisting Hezbollah's military wing said Britain had provided more information in support of its request."

"I haven't heard lately that any state - probably a question mark is Prague - is so dead against this that they will prevent a consensus. At the end of the day nobody wants to be the defender of the military wing of Hezbollah," the diplomat was quoted by the WJC as saying.

Even if the British-inspired move is adopted, it will not please everyone. Critics argue that it is futile to distinguish between "political" and "military" wings of Hezbollah. They add that unless the organisation as a whole is outlawed, Hezbollah will still be permitted to raise funds and use bank accounts in Europe.

A source at the WJC in Belgium told The Commentator they understood that the European Union is now almost certain to adopt a legally binding resolution calling Hezbollah's military wing a terror group.

The British Foreign Office's senior staff are said to be conflicted by the move.

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