Germany Backs Britain in Putting Hizbullah on EU Blacklist

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -

Germany will throw its weight behind a British drive to put the armed wing of Hizbullah on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations, German diplomats said on Wednesday.

Britain said on Tuesday it wanted the EU to add Hizbullah’s military wing to its terror list because of evidence that the Iranian-backed group was behind a bus bombing in Bulgaria in July that killed five Israelis and their driver.

London also cited a four-year jail sentence handed down by a Cypriot court in March to a Hizbullah member accused of plotting to attack Israeli interests on the island.

The announcement followed a meeting between Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and her German counterpart Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger on Tuesday night, in which the former asked that Germany support the British initiative.

If backed unanimously by the European Union, the listing would force European governments and companies to cease any financial dealings with the armed wing of Hizbullah.

The call for EU action on Hizbullah comes at a time of growing Western anxiety about the group’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, although British sources said this was not the reason behind its request.

On Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague accused Hizbullah and Iran of propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Germany, one of the most powerful EU countries, had previously said it wanted to see stronger evidence that Hizbullah was involved in the bombing in Bulgaria.

“In the light of discussions we have had with our partners following the terrorist attack in Burgas, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle supports listing at least the military wing of Hizbullah as a terrorist organization in the EU,” a German diplomatic source said.

Britain’s request will be discussed on June 4 by a special EU working group and London hopes for final agreement at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on June 24, an EU diplomat said.

The EU has resisted pressure from the United States and Israel to blacklist Hizbullah, arguing this could destabilize Lebanon’s fragile government and contribute to instability in the Middle East.

In Europe, only the Netherlands lists Hizbullah as a terrorist group, while Britain blacklists its military wing. France has yet to take a public stance on Britain’s proposal.