Israeli President Shimon Peres urged the European Union on Thursday to formally label Hizbullah as a terrorist organization.
Peres told the EU at a meeting held in its Brussels headquarters that Hizbullah would only be encouraged to expand its operations if the EU continued to shrink from putting it on the official blacklist, AFP reported.
The president said that the Lebanon-based terror organization is now intervening directly in Syria against rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, thus increasing its reach.
“If you do not take measures against Hizbullah, then they may think they are permitted” to do as they please, Peres said after a meeting with European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.
“I know this is not the EU’s intention,” he added, replying to a question about Europe’s stance. The president said he hoped Hizbullah “is called to order … It should be stopped, it is terror; it does not have any other name,” he declared.
Barroso responded that designating the Lebanon-based group as a terrorist organization required ‘careful assessment’ and was first and foremost and decision for member states.
“We are extremely concerned,” Barroso said, referring to a deadly attack last year on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, which the government has blamed directly on Hizbullah.
Meanwhile on Thursday, a Hizbullah member appeared in a Cypriot court for the last time before it rules on whether he plotted to attack Israeli interests for the Iran-backed terrorist group, reported Reuters.
If the court finds the Lebanese-Swedish man Hossam Taleb Yaccoub guilty when it delivers a verdict on March 21, it will strengthen calls for the European Union to follow the U.S. lead and declare Hizbullah a terrorist organization.
Yaccoub was arrested in the Cypriot port city of Limassol last year, two weeks before a suicide bomber killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria in July.
The prosecution says Yaccoub tracked the movements of Israeli tourists on the island, a popular vacation destination in the eastern Mediterranean, noting arrival times of flights from Israel and registration numbers of buses ferrying visitors to hotels.
He pleaded not guilty to eight counts of conspiracy, consent to commit a crime and participation in a criminal organisation.
Yaccoub has not denied he is a member of Hizbullah or that he carried out courier duties for them in Europe. He says he never plotted any crime but merely acted on the instructions of a handler, who always wore a mask whenever they met.