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Continued: EU declares Hezbollah's military wing a terror group; Israel welcomes the move

  • Article by: RAF CASERT , Associated Press
  • Last update: July 22, 2013 - 4:10 PM

Lebanon's outgoing prime minister, Najib Mikati, expressed disappointment in the bloc's action, saying: "We wish that the EU countries had conducted a more careful reading of the facts."

Even before Monday's decision, aid groups complained that European governments have been reluctant to donate funds to help Lebanon cope with a massive flow of refugees from Syria's civil war because of Hezbollah's dominance in Lebanon's government.

Timor Goksel, a Beirut-based political analyst, called the EU action "a public relations move," but said it could affect Hezbollah in Lebanon by providing "much ammunition to its foes."

Walid Sukariyeh, a pro-Hezbollah legislator who belongs to the group's bloc, said the decision underscored the influence of the U.S. on Europe.

"Europe tried to have an independent stance away from America's diction, but I believe by this stance it has abandoned its independence and the independence of its policy," he said.

Kerry said the EU move would "have a significant impact on Hezbollah's ability to operate freely in Europe by enabling European law enforcement agencies to crack down on Hezbollah's fundraising, logistical activity, and terrorist plotting on European soil."

Israel also welcomed the European decision. It fought a bitter monthlong war with Hezbollah in 2006, and has accused Hezbollah of carrying out attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets around the world. Hezbollah has denied involvement in some and not commented on others.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the EU ministers for the action, even though he insisted that "as far as Israel is concerned, Hezbollah is one organization without distinctions between its wings."

Westerwelle said the evidence from the attack in Bulgaria was enough of an impetus for the blacklisting.

Several EU nations have pointed to Hezbollah's involvement in Syria as further reason for the move.

As Hezbollah's hand in the Syrian conflict has become public, Lebanon has seen a spike in Sunni-Shiite tensions that has sparked gunbattles in several cities around the country. Many Lebanese Sunnis support the overwhelmingly Sunni uprising against Assad in Syria, while Shiites generally back Hezbollah and the regime in Damascus.

The EU only made its decision after it became clear that political channels would remain open with all players in Lebanon.

"Designation will do nothing to affect the EU's and the UK's strong relationship with, and support for, Lebanon," Hague said.

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