Middle East

Bulgaria defends blaming Hezbollah for bombing

Bulgaria's Interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov (R) speaks during a press conference with (from L) Foreign minister Nikolay Mladenov, president Rosen Plevenliev and Prime minister Boiko Borisov, after a national security conference in Sofia on February 5, 2013. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF

SOFIA: Bulgaria's foreign minister defended himself Wednesday against accusations that Sofia lacked the proof to blame Hezbollah for a July bomb attack that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian.

"If Bulgaria did not have enough arguments to announce yesterday that the traces in this attack lead to Hezbollah's military wing, we would not have done it," Nikolay Mladenov said on BNT television.

Nearly seven months after the bombing of an Israeli tourist bus at the Black Sea airport of Burgas, Sofia on Tuesday had said two Canadian and Australia passport-holders with links to Hezbollah were to blame.

This led to renewed calls from the United States, Israel and Canada on the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a "terrorist" organisation.

Israel had immediately after the attack pointed the finger at Iran and its "terrorist proxy" Hezbollah but until now Bulgarian investigators had stopped short of following suit.

Bulgarian analysts on Wednesday accused the government of not having enough proof to level what may turn out to a dangerous accusation, and of kowtowing to Washington and Israel.

"We have joined the camp of US and Israel... allowing to be drawn into the big game where Hezbollah has to be eliminated as it supports the regime in Syria," international security expert Simeon Nikolov said.

"Do our leaders realise the responsibility they take in announcing results, which are not categorically backed by evidence?" the expert added on BNT television, slamming what he saw as "a strategic mistake" by the government.

"What is this 'justified assumption'? We entered a game, which is not ours without having any categorical proof to show," Yovo Nikolov from Capital weekly newspaper added.

Too small to have access to extensive intelligence data from abroad, Bulgaria obviously "relied heavily on resources from foreign security services" in the investigation, Tihomir Bezlov from the Sofia-based think tank Centre for the Study of Democracy said.

Hezbollah is the most powerful faction in the current Lebanese cabinet, and its militia is the most powerful military force in Lebanon.

On Tuesday EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that member states would now "discuss the appropriate response", saying that she "underlines the need for a reflection over the outcome of the investigation".





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