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U.S. Pressing EU “Very, Very Hard” To Blacklist Hezbollah

Seeking to overcome French and German objections reportedly linked to those countries’ fears that Hezbollah will target their interests, the U.S. government is continuing to push the European Union to blacklist the Iran-backed group Hezbollah as a terrorist organization:

[Treasury Under Secretary David] Cohen said, “One, the designation of Hezbollah following the determination by the Bulgarians that Hezbollah was responsible for that attack in Burgas. We are pressing the EU, pressing member states of the EU to get that done. Not going to predict what the EU will do, but you can be sure that we’re pressing them very, very hard to get that accomplished.” Bulgaria’s interior minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, attributed, last month in Sofia, the killing of five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver in the Black seaside resort of Burgas to Hezbollah operatives.

Earlier this month, a suspect in Cyprus on trial for multiple terror-related charges confessed to being a Hezbollah member. Arguments in the trial of Hossam Taleb Yaccoub wrapped up last week, and a ruling will be released on March 21. If Yaccoub is convicted it will mark the second time in recent months that Hezbollah has been linked to terror plots on E.U. soil, with those two being part of a global campaign of Iran-backed terrorism against Israelis and Jews conducted throughout 2012.

U.S. officials have long pushed the E.U. to blacklist Hezbollah, emphasizing that the reluctance of member states boosted terrorism and undermined U.S. security. In October 2012, then-senior White House terrorism adviser John Brennan noted that the E.U.’s position enabled Hezbollah to raise funds in support of its terror campaigns:

“We call upon our European allies and partners – including the EU – to join us, not only in recognizing Hezbollah’s terrorist and criminal activities, but in condemning and disrupting those activities,” Brennan said… Brennan said that without greater international recognition and action against Hezbollah’s terrorism, “the group will continue to operate with impunity and it will be able to raise funds that enable its terrorist activity.”

A month ago Ambassador Daniel Benjamin blasted the E.U.’s position for undermining security goals:

It is a “very bad thing that Hezbollah can operate in Europe regarding fund-raising and logistics,” US Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, a former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department in the first Obama administration, said. Hezbollah’s legal status in the EU “undermines security goals,” he said. “If you want to put a dent in Hezbollah activities, it would be a positive thing” to outlaw the Lebanese group, and an EU terror “designation would be a blow to Hezbollah’s legitimacy,” Benjamin said.

Even Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has acknowledged the crucial role that European fundraising — which a designation would block — plays in the group’s activities.

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