British Foreign Minister William Hague in Paphos, Cyprus: "I would like to see the EU designate and sanction the military wing of Hezbollah."
PAPHOS/BRUSSELS (EJP)---Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague has urged the European Union to place the military wing of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah on its list of "terrorist" organizations.
"I would like to see the EU designate and sanction the military wing of Hezbollah," Hague said Friday in Paphos, Cyprus, where EU Foreign Ministers hold a two-day informal meeting.
EU sources noted that the British move came after mounting indications that Hezbollah was behind a bomb attack on July 18 in Burgas, Bulgaria, that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgariazn bus driver.
Hague said it was time for the EU to revisit this issue.
Earlier this week, Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal already said the European Union should put Hezbollah on the terror list, a move that would enable the bloc to freeze the group's assets in Europe, because of its support to the Syrian regime.
"We have for quite some time now argued that effective European measures should be taken against Hezbollah. The fact that the U.S. has taken new sanctions due to Hezbollah's support for the Assad regime is a new reason and opportunity to return to this issue, and I will do so…when I meet my European partners today," Rosenthal said.
Holland is the only country in the EU to list Hezbollah and its branches as a terror entity. Britain views only the military wing as a terrorist group.
Since the Bulgaria bombing, Israel has been pressing the EU to blacklist Hezbollah on the grounds that the group is now active on European soil.
But some EU countries are resisting such a move, most notably France. On arriving for the talks in Paphos, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius appeared to suggest this was not possible now.
"There is a request but there are judicial considerations," he said
"An organization can be placed on the list of terrorist organizations when judicial proceedings have been filed against it as such, which is not the case currently."
In July, the EU turned down a request by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. "There is no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations," said at the type Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
Kozakou-Marcoullis said then that Hezbollah was an organization comprising a party as well as an armed wing and was "active in Lebanese politics"—with representatives in the government and in parliament.
But the EU position might change if the Bulgaria’s investigation into the Burgas anti-Israel bombing confirms that Hezbollah was behind the attack with its sponsor, Iran.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov said the investigation was not yet finished and Bulgaria was not ready to accuse anyone.
"It's moving forward quite rapidly but will take at least another couple of months," he told Reuters. "A report (from such an investigation) needs to be able to stand up in court. This is why we are being very careful in what we say."
The situation in Syria and new sanctions against Iran are high on the agenda of the EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Cyprus.
“We need to be very clear that we want to see the violence (in Syria) stop and that Assad must understand that he must go. There needs to be transitional process,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Paphos.