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EU poised to put Hezbollah military wing on terrorist list: diplomats

In this April 1996 file photo, two Hezbollah fighters stand near Katyusha rockets in the southern village of Ein Qana, Lebanon. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari, file)

BRUSSELS: The European Union stands poised to add the military wing of Lebanon's Hezbollah to its list of international terrorist groups after a formal request to blacklist the organisation was filed by a member state Monday, diplomats said.

The request from Britain formally launches a process to blacklist the group's military wing, a move that has long been requested by Israel and which will be discussed in early June, several EU diplomats told AFP.

"We hope to have an agreement by the end of June," one of the diplomats said, adding that EU experts would meet in a special committee to discuss the request early June.

Both Israel and the United States have pressured the 27-member bloc to follow their example and designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group but the issue remained sensitive and divisive, with Britain openly in favour while France and Italy were believed reluctant.

France, the former colonial power, feared the move could destabilise Lebanon, where Hezbollah is part of the government. There was also concern for the safety of UN peacekeepers there.

The mood shifted however last year after an attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria which Sofia has blamed on Hezbollah and the arrest of a suspected Hezbollah agent in Cyprus, believed to have been planning attacks there.

During a visit in March, Israeli President Shimon Peres urged the EU to brand Hezbollah as terrorists, arguing that the Shiite movement's intervention in Syria against rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad was enabling the group to spread its reach.

"If you do not take measures against Hezbollah, then they may think that they are permitted" to do what they like, he said after a meeting with European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.

 

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