France is prepared to designate the military wing of Hezbollah a terrorist organization, the London-Based Arabic daily Al Hayat reported on Friday, citing a French official.
The European Union has been under pressure from the United States and Israel to blacklist the Shi'ite organization, a demand which has intensified since last month when Bulgaria implicated Hezbollah in the Burgas bus bombing, in which five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed.
According to the French source, Paris's openness to label the military wing of Hezbollah a terror organization stems from its responsibility for the Burgas attack and its participation in Syria's civil war on the side of President Bashar Assad.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius discussed the matter with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, according to the report.
According to the source the move is more symbolic than practical because it will not lead the EU to blacklist the "political branch" of Hezbollah, and therefore, will not stop the organization from receiving funds from Europe.
Also Friday, Der Spiegel's news site reported that the German government wants to increase pressure on the European Union to add Hezbollah to its list of terrorist organizations. According to the report, after talks with representatives of the American Jewish Committee and security experts, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said he favored banning the group in Europe.
A spokesman for Friedrich reportedly said that if Hezbollah's responsibility for the Burgas bombing is confirmed, there will be a strong case for blacklisting Hezbollah.
The reports came after a criminal court in Limassol, Cyprus, on Thursday sentenced Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, an admitted Hezbollah operative, to four years in prison for plotting to kill Israeli tourists on the island.
Yaacoub’s conviction may add greater urgency to European Union talks on whether to include Hezbollah in its terror list. EU countries such as Austria and Germany have not included Hezbollah on its terror list because of insufficient legal evidence. The Cyprus conviction represents the first conviction of a Hezbollah member in a European court.
But many European governments are cautious about imposing sanctions on Hezbollah, arguing it could fuel tensions in the Middle East.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said earlier this month that Britain would be in favor of Hezbollah’s military wing being blacklisted at the European level.
France had until now resisted including Hezbollah in the EU terror list, because of fears it could lose diplomatic leverage in Lebanon. The Netherlands lists Hezbollah’s entire organization as a terror entity.
Benjamin Weinthal and Reuters contributed to this report.
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