If the European Union follows Israeli recommendations this week and places Hezbollah on a list of official terror organizations, the economic consequences of sanctions would “destroy” the Lebanese terror group, Hezbollah’s leader told Arabic language television.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom Monday called on the European Union to add Hezbollah to its list of terrorist groups – a step Europe so far has been reluctant to take. The request follows a suicide bombing Friday in Tel Aviv that Israel says was directed by Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad with funding and assistance from Syria.
Shalom said he reiterated the long-standing Israeli request regarding Hezbollah during a meeting this week with his Belgian counterpart, Karel De Gucht, and will express the Jewish state’s concerns to other EU members.
Shalom told reporters Hezbollah operates dozens of terror cells, directs a group of Palestinian terrorists and offers millions of dollars in assistance to West Bank militants.
“We see they make every effort to sabotage progress in the peace process,” Shalom said.
The United States also has attempted to persuade the EU to list Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said European blacklisting would “destroy” his group.
Designating Hezbollah a terror group in Europe will mean “the sources of [our] funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed,” Nasrallah told Al Manar, Hezbollah’s satellite television station.
“The political option [used by the Israelis], which is more important and dangerous, is manifested by the Israeli-Zionist unceasing efforts to lay siege to [Hezbollah] in Lebanon and in the future in Palestine and globally, internationally, regionally and even locally in Lebanon. That is the most dangerous challenge we have had to face during the past few years, and we stand firm today and will stand firm in the future,” said Nasrallah.
France has already responded to Israel’s Hezbollah request, with French President Jacques Chirac claiming the timing was not right for such a move.
Israeli officials told reporters the French are aware of the information linking Hezbollah to terrorism, but they are now allegedly focusing their efforts on the civil uprising in Lebanon and say they don’t want to risk harming relations with the group.
France’s objections are considered the main obstacle to the EU approving the move to add Hezbollah to the terror list.
Israel this week also launched a major diplomatic offensive lobbying for increased international isolation of Syria. Military intelligence chiefs in Jerusalem met several foreign ambassadors, mostly from European countries, to present information linking Syria to the Tel Aviv bombing. Presentations are also scheduled for Washington, London and Paris.
“What we are doing is trying in every capital of the world … to show them the direct links from Syria to Islamic Jihad, which has a direct connection to what we saw on Friday evening in Tel Aviv,” said Ron Prosor, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
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