Lebanese officials denounce EU move to blacklist Hezbollah
Published Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Lebanese officials on Monday and Tuesday slammed the European Union’s designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, with top leaders calling on the 28-nation bloc to reverse its decision.
The EU’s foreign ministers on Monday declared Hezbollah’s military unit as a terror group following years of pressure by the United States and Israel to blacklist it, which entails a freeze to any funds Hezbollah may hold in Europe.
The powerful Lebanese Shia movement described the move as “aggressive” and “unjust” in a statement issued late-Monday.
"It looks as if the decision was written by American hands with Zionist ink, and the EU had only to put its seal of approval," the statement read.
The decision “comes in contrast with [the EU’s] values and aspirations that support the principles of freedom and independence, which it had always advocated," it added.
Prime Minister designate Tammam Salam on Tuesday called on the EU to reverse its decision, describing the move as unhelpful as Lebanon grapples with an internal political crisis.
“It's no secret that Lebanon is going through a difficult and critical stage," Salam said in a statement carried by Lebanon’s state news agency.
"This decision doesn't help the Lebanese President's efforts to revive national dialogue in order to restore stability in Lebanon and fortify the nation's political and security bodies," he added.
Speaker of the House Nabih Berri described the move as a service to Israel to compensate for the recently approved EU ban that forbids member states from funding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
In the statement issued Tuesday, Berri called on the EU "to reconsider its decision which affects, with no doubt, all the Lebanese and their interests in Europe.”
Outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday said he regretted the move and promised to follow up on the matter with EU officials through “diplomatic channels.”
“We had only wished that EU countries had thoroughly read facts and data [before blacklisting Hezbollah]," Mikati said.
The EU cited accusations that Hezbollah was behind a bus bombing in Bulgaria last year which killed five Israelis and their driver to justify the move.
But pressure to blacklist the group had intensified since May when Hezbollah publicly acknowledged that its fighters were taking part in the Syrian civil war against the western-backed rebels.
Last month, a new socialist-led Bulgarian government backed away from claims of the previous administration that Hezbollah was behind the bombing, saying that the EU could not justify blacklisting Hezbollah solely based on the little evidence produced to implicate it in the crime.
"It is important that the (EU) decision be based not only on the bombing … because I think the evidence we have is not explicit," Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin had told national state radio BNR in June.
Hezbollah has denied any involvement in last year’s bombing. In February the group accused Israel of waging an "international campaign" against it.