UK bid to blacklist Hezbollah faces EU opposition

Move raises fears of instability in Lebanon while doubts persist over Bulgarian attack

Burgas

A British attempt to blacklist the military wing of Hezbollah has run into opposition at the European Union, in part because of the mystery that continues to shroud a key investigation linking the Lebanese group to an attack in Bulgaria last year.

At a closed meeting in Brussels, Britain put forward the bombing in the Black Sea resort of Burgas last July, in which five Israeli tourists, a Bulgarian driver and the bomber were killed, as a crucial part of its rationale for why the EU should designate Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.

But several EU countries raised questions over the evidence linking Hezbollah to the bombing, as well as concerns that blacklisting the Shia organisation could create instability in Lebanon, where the Shia militia is a major political and social force.

Although Israel blamed Hezbollah for the Burgas bombing, it took until February this year for the Bulgarian government to say there was a "justifiable assumption" that the Burgas bomber and two suspected accomplices were linked to the group.

Little evidence has been made public to support the claims. The two fugitive suspects are said to be a Canadian citizen, born in Lebanon, and an Australian. But their real names, current whereabouts and links to Hezbollah have not been released. The identity of the dead bomber is also unknown.

"An attack takes place and immediately all over the world, governments are saying it was Hezbollah," said Elena Pavlova, a Middle East analyst based in Sofia. "Yet, we have waited a year and still no one has given any proof."

Along with local journalist Ruslan Yordanov, she found al Qa'ida-linked martyrdom videos online, claiming responsibility a day after the bombing in Burgas. They wonder whether evidence pointing towards alternative perpetrators was deliberately ignored to meet the demands of Israeli and Western governments seeking an excuse to ban Hezbollah.

Bulgaria's former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who was the public face of the investigation until his government resigned earlier this year, denies there was any pressure from international partners.

"If we were under pressure we would have made an announcement earlier, but we waited until we had enough proof," he said.

Bulgaria has previously said its investigators found two fake US driving licences used by the suspects, which it says were printed in Beirut.

This was enough to convince a reluctant German government to support the move to blacklist Hezbollah's military wing, which would move towards cutting off its fundraising activities in Europe. The conviction of a confessed Hezbollah operative in Cyprus in March, who was monitoring the arrival of Israeli tourists to the island, added to the pressure.

France agreed to support the move after Hezbollah announced last month that it was sending fighters into Syria to support the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah has denied involvement in the Burgas plot, and the attempt to blacklist the group has brought heated responses from Lebanon. "Any listing of the group as a terrorist organisation will be considered as political provocation," Lebanon's acting foreign minister Adnan Mansour, who is seen as close to the Syrian government, said last week. "We know there are Israeli pressures practised on more than one international side in order to accuse Hezbollah of terrorism."

Enough doubts remain to make several EU governments uncomfortable about blacklisting the group, and the support of all 27 members is needed for the motion to pass.

With Lebanon already suffering spillover from the civil war in Syria, several EU governments will remain concerned that further instability is not the answer. "The issue of political and security consequences" was raised, one EU diplomat said. More discussions will be held in the next two weeks, with a decision possibly taken by the end of the month.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker