Report: E.U. close to branding Hezbollah military wing a terrorist group

(JTA) — A senior EU official said the union is moving closer to declaring the military wing of the Lebanese political party Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

The Associated Press on Friday reported that the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the EU could make a decision on the matter as soon as Monday, when senior representatives of all 28 member states will convene in Brussels for a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council.

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The official spoke at the end of a meeting in Brussels Thursday of ambassadors from EU member states.

“It appears there is an agreement in principle to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing, but even if this is true, it may take weeks or even months for the completion of the procedures to make it happen,” a jurist from Brussels who is working with the EU on the issue told JTA.

“This has to be done very methodically because otherwise, the proscription may not stand up in court if a company or individual challenges it in the European Court of Justice,”  said the jurist, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

The latest developments suggest a change of heart within leading EU member states that have been held back by fears that blacklisting Hezbollah would destabilize Lebanon, where Hezbollah is a major political force in government, and damage the relationship between the EU and Lebanon.

Europe’s movement on the Hezbollah has been propelled by allegations that the group was behind a bus bombing last year in Burgas, Bulgaria, which claimed the lives of five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian.

On Thursday, the news site reported that new information from Britain on alleged terrorist activity by Hezbollah is likely to gain Austria’s support to blacklist the Lebanese group.

The Netherlands is the only EU member state which classifies Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist entity, as do Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Britain regards only the organization’s military wing as such, and has called on other EU states to follow the British example.