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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

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Sep 23rd
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Far-right Euro-MPs bid to have Hizbullah blacklisted as terrorist organization
Far-right Euro-MPs bid to have Hizbullah blacklisted as terrorist organization PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Wander, Special to The Daily Star   
Sunday, 21 September 2008

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BEIRUT: Members of the European Union's Parliament launched a campaign this week to have Hizbullah listed as a terrorist organization by the 27-member bloc. A coalition of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) circulated a "written declaration" on Tuesday seeking to have Hizbullah added to the EU terror list, which includes Al-Qaeda and several Palestinian groups.

Hizbullah is not currently considered a terrorist group by most Western countries. Only four countries - the United States, Israel, Canada and Holland - have officially listed the Shiite political group as "terrorist organization." Australia and Britain label only the armed wing of Hizbullah as "terrorist."

Some other countries do not keep an official list of designated terrorist organizations, but have expressed concerns over the group's activities. 

The proposal comes at a delicate time in Lebanese politics. Hizbullah is currently engaged in national dialogue talks with rival political parties aimed at clarifying the relationship of its armed wing to the state. The group has pledged to never give up its weapons, saying they are needed to defend Lebanon from possible future Israeli attacks.

Aside from its military activities, Hizbullah's political wing has representatives in Parliament and holds one seat in the Cabinet. It also participates in municipal government and undertakes many social development projects. The group was responsible for much of the reconstruction work that took place in the South, Beirut's southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley after the July 2006 war with Israel.

But some EU Parliament members argue that Hizbullah's political power in Lebanon is precisely the reason it should be added to the list. "If it was only a number of lunatics, it would not be as dangerous," Portuguese socialist MEP Paulo Casaca told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday.

Czech MEP Jana Hybaskova released a statement on behalf of the largest single grouping in the Parliament, the far-right European People's Party, warning that Hizbullah represented a serious threat to European citizens. "Since the 1980s, more than 90 European citizens have been killed in terror attacks committed by the terrorist organization Hizbullah," she charged. She offered no evidence to support her claim.

"Experts on terrorism say that Europe is at risk of a terrorist attack and I wonder why Hizbullah is only on the UK and Dutch lists of terrorist organizations and not on the EU's," Hybaskova said. 

She added that those who opposed her views were "jeopardizing the lives of European citizens." Hybaskova chairs the European Parliament's delegation to Israel and co-sponsored the written declaration.

A written declaration is an expression of opinion rather than a legislative document and they are usually used by MEPs to raise awareness of causes that they or their sponsors feel strongly about. Due to the labyrinthine political structure of the European Union, even if a written declaration is adopted by the Parliament it does not become law, but is sent to the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, for consideration.

Campaign members say they are trying to build a "critical mass" to turn the motion into EU policy. But only 44 of a possible 785 MEPs have signed the declaration so far and experts say it is unlikely to become law.

The European Union's counterterrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerckhove, told the European Jewish Press Web site that he didn't think it was likely that Hizbullah would be added to the list. "It plays a role on the Lebanese political scene and several countries think that this could bring them closer to the democratic process," he said.

If Hizbullah were designated a terrorist organization by the bloc, it would see its financial assets in Europe frozen and its fundraising activities in EU member states disrupted.

But experts say that based on available information, it is unlikely that such measures would have a major impact on Hizbullah. Amal Saad Ghorayeb, who has written a book about the group, said: "If this became EU policy it would have a political rather than a financial impact."

She said that given the current political climate in Lebanon, the motion was unlikely to become law. "There have been many such initiatives and they have failed," she said. "I don't think that it is good timing, with the national dialogue taking place, for such measures to be implemented."

There have been previous attempts to persuade the EU to list Hizbullah as a terrorist group. Last year, the bloc came under pressure from US lawmakers to make such a designation. Some member states supported the move, but EU rules require a unanimous decision from all 27 member states that has not been possible to secure.

When contacted by The Daily Star, Hizbullah said that it had no comment on the motion. 18 Sept. 2008

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=96106



Last Updated ( Sunday, 21 September 2008 )
 
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