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Israel fumes over EU delay in adding Hezbollah to terror list

  • FILE - Israel's Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (C, R) pays his respects to the five Israeli victims of a suicide blast which targeted a bus of Israeli tourists, during a commemoration ceremony at the site of the blast at Burgas Airport on July 24, 2012. (AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV)

PARIS: Israel’s Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter has denounced Europe’s hesitation in putting Lebanon’s Hezbollah on its terror list, branding debate on the issue as “almost a joke.”

“Asking if Hezbollah is a terror organization is like asking if Paris belongs to France,” he told reporters late Tuesday during a visit to France.

Bulgaria has said Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing of an Israeli tourist bus in July last year which claimed six lives.

“Who is sleeping?” he said. “Are we Israelis sleeping or are countries in Europe sleeping? There’s no debate.”

The United States had asked the European Union to follow it and put Hezbollah on its terror list but the issue is contested and requires a unanimous decision from the 27 member states.

“To speak about Hasan Nasrallah as someone who is only political is ridiculous,” the minister said, referring to the powerful leader of the party.

Dichter, in Paris to discuss the Bulgaria bombing with French officials, told Reuters the EU should blacklist Hezbollah because it also drew a large portion of its funds from European capitals and later laundered the money.

“Europe, that’s the real base of Hezbollah ... If they [are not] able to gather money ... in Europe, they are going to be in trouble,” he said, adding that the funding came from a network of charities and front companies.

In France, officials also say privately they are concerned that listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization could destabilize Lebanon, where some 1,000 French peacekeeping troops are deployed following a reduction last year.

“I wish they [France] will be smart enough, brave enough to take a step without thinking how it’s going to affect the stability or the lack of stability in Lebanon,” said Dichter, a former director of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 21, 2013, on page 3.
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