UK asks EU to place Hezbollah on terror blacklist

European Union moves closer to adding Hezbollah’s military wing to its list of terror groups, diplomat says.

Hezbollah coffin in Syria (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hezbollah coffin in Syria
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN/LONDON – Britain has filed a formal request to the European Union for Hezbollah’s military wing to be included on its list of terrorist organizations.
A spokesman at the British Foreign Office told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the request was submitted in light of the July 2012 terrorist attack in Bulgaria in which five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver were killed, and the recent conviction of a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus for plotting to kill Israeli tourists.
“We are calling for Europe to respond collectively and robustly following the atrocious terrorist attack at Burgas airport and in light of the recent conviction of a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus,” he said. “We have called for a meeting of the CP931 working group to discuss the UK proposal for designation. We expect this meeting to take place in coming weeks.”
The spokesman continued: “We firmly believe that an appropriate EU response would be to designate Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization.
This would be in line with our national proscription of Hezbollah’s military wing.”
Bulgaria’s government accused two Hezbollah operatives of blowing up the Israeli tour bus. In March, a criminal court in Limassol, Cyprus, sentenced Hossam Taleb Yaacoub to four years for plotting to kill Israeli tourists on the island.
Asked by the Post if the European Union’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, favors a ban of Hezbollah’s military wing or its entire organization, her chief spokesperson, Maja Kocijancic, said that “I am not in a position to comment on possible proposals for designation.”
All amendments to the EU list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts require the unanimous agreement of all member states, she added.
The British Foreign Office also said that it continues “to work closely with our European partners on this issue to reach a robust, collective EU position.
EU designation under CP931 would make it harder for HMW [Hezbollah’s military wing] to operate in Europe and would therefore be a proactive step towards preventing any future attacks by this terrorist organization on European soil.”
Asked why the UK did not favor a ban of Hezbollah’s entire organization, he said that “The UK proscribed Hezbollah’s External Security Organization in 2001, believing it to be concerned with international terrorism. In 2008 the proscription was extended to include the whole of Hezbollah’s military apparatus, namely the Jihad Council and all the units reporting to it.
“We do not proscribe the political wing of the organization, it is government policy not to discuss organizations which are not on the proscribed list, including speculation on whether an organization is or is not under consideration for proscription,” he said.
Critics within the member state parliaments have urged the EU to outlaw Hezbollah’s entire apparatus. British Labor MP Michael McCann said during a House of Commons debate earlier this month that the “military wing” designation is not potent enough to address either the Hezbollah threat or the Shiite’s groups’ chief sponsor, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“And they retain a clear and present military danger to millions of Israeli men, women and children, with tens of thousands of missiles pointed at major population centers,” he said.
“Missiles which could be launched with one word from their venal, anti-Semitic paymasters in Tehran. It is clear that Hezbollah should be proscribed in its entirety by both the UK government and the EU,” McCann said.
Philipp Missfelder, a member of the German parliament and deputy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party in the Bundestag, has repeatedly called for the EU to blacklist Hezbollah in its entirety.
Meanwhile, The Australian newspaper reported that Hezbollah has three active sleeper cells in Australia.
Sheik Bilal Radwan, a Sunni clerical leader in Tripoli, told the paper: “There are sleeper cells for Hezbollah in Australia.
I warn your government about such a thing, it is well known that they have sleeping cells like Abu Abbas, Abu Jafaar and Zaiter. All these are operating on the Australian ground.”
According to the Australian daily, Sheik Radwan said that because of intensified sanctions pressure on Iran’s economy, Hezbollah engaged in increased narcotics and prostitution enterprises to finance attacks such as the one in Bulgaria.
Australia, like the United Kingdom, currently bans Hezbollah’s military wing.
Asked if Canberra plans to outlaw Hezbollah’s entire organization in the wake of the sleeper cells revelation, a spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the Post: “The Australian Government does not comment on intelligence matters. Australia does list the whole organization of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization for the purposes of targeted financial sanctions under the Charter of the UN Act 1945, pursuant to UNSC Resolution 1373 on suppression of terrorism.
This listing has been in place since December 2001.”
The spokesperson added: “the Attorney-General also lists part of Hezbollah (its External Security Organization, or ESO) as a terrorist organization under Australia’s domestic Criminal Code Act listing regime. The ESO is a discrete branch within Hezbollah responsible for the planning, coordination and execution of terrorist attacks against its enemies outside of Lebanon.”
To date, the only countries to have classified Hezbollah’s entire organization as a terrorist entity are Canada, Israel, Bahrain, the Netherlands and the United States.
Hezbollah has played an integral part in propping up the Assad regime in Syria, prompting calls for western intervention.
The 27 members of the EU are set to discuss Hezbollah’s status in June.