Bulgaria Shies Away From Blacklisting Hizbullah

SOFIA, Bulgaria (Reuters) -

Bulgaria’s new interim prime minister has said that he would not initiate any move to impose EU sanctions on Hizbullah, even though the country had implicated the terrorist organization in the bombing at a Black Sea resort that killed 5 Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian citizen.

Marin Raikov did not give a reason for his decision — but it will likely be seen as a concession to Bulgarian opposition groups, who have argued the country could open itself up to more attacks if it takes the lead in blacklisting Hizbullah.

Raikov, a career diplomat, took over at the head of a technocrat administration on Wednesday after mass protests against poverty and corruption by opposition groups and other activists brought down Bulgaria’s center-right government.

He was appointed by the president to maintain market confidence and placate protesters before an election on May 12.

Opposition leaders had also used the protests to denounce what they saw as irresponsible government accusations that Hizbullah was behind last year’s bombing.

“Bulgaria will not initiate a procedure [for listing Hizbullah as a ‘terrorist organization’],” Raikov told the state BNR radio station. “We will only present the objective facts and circumstances and let our European partners decide.”

Last month, then-interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said three people were involved in the bombing and an investigation suggested they had links to Hizbullah.

Last week, the European Commission said the EU would consider imposing sanctions on Hizbullah but did not yet have sufficient evidence of its activities in Europe to make a decision.

No one was immediately available in Brussels to comment on what impact Raikov’s comments would have on the bloc’s broader stance. All 27 member states would have to agree to any sanctions to come into force.