EU still divided over branding Hezbollah a terrorist group


hezbollah parade 9European Union nations are divided going into fresh talks this week on whether to add the military wing of Hezbollah to its list of terrorist groups, diplomatic sources said Monday.

EU ambassadors are set to discuss the issue on Thursday after counter-terrorist experts from the bloc’s 28 member states twice failed last month to reach a unanimous decision to blacklist the powerful Lebanese Shiite group.

Unanimity is required to add the Shiite militia to the dozen people and score of groups currently on the EU international terrorist list and subject to an asset freeze — including Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and Colombia’s FARC guerrillas.

EU diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity said Austria, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta and Slovakia had not signed on so far to a push led by Britain, France and the Netherlands to blacklist the group.

A diplomat from a country supporting the move said a “consensus is clearly building” given that “the evidence that it committed terrorism on EU soil is strong”.

But others were not so sure. One EU source said the new Czech foreign minister had offered no indication so far of Prague changing its mind, and a diplomat said Austria was still mulling the issue.

Concerns over Hezbollah have mounted in Europe since an attack last year on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria which Sofia blamed on Hezbollah.

In March, a Cyprus court sentenced a Hezbollah member to four years behind bars for planning attacks there.

Hezbollah’s growing involvement in the Syrian conflict in recent months has further worried EU nations.

Should ambassadors fail again to reach agreement this week, the matter could go to foreign ministers who gather on Monday in Brussels.

EU counter-terror specialists first met on the issue on June 4 but failed to reach unanimity after several countries objected that this could destabilise politically fragile Lebanon, where Hezbollah is in government.

Hezbollah has been on a US terror blacklist since 1995.

Britain and the Netherlands are the only EU nations to have placed Hezbollah on their own lists of terrorist groups.