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Hezbollah should be labeled a terrorist group, say France, Britain, Germany

Hezbollah has been aiding Syrian forces in the country's civil war, prompting an EU motion to label them a terrorist group.

Hezbollah terrorist organization euEnlarge
Members and supporters of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement carry the coffin of their comrade Saleh Ahmad Sabbagh during his funeral in the southern port city of Sidon on May 22, 2013. Local media said Sabbagh, the son of a Sunni father and a Shiite mother, who converted to Shiite Islam and joined Hezbollah years ago, was killed in the ongoing battle of Qusayr in the Syrian province of Homs. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Hezbollah should be labeled a terrorist group by the European Union, France, Britain and Germany said Wednesday.

The Lebanese militant group — which has already been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, Israel and others — has been aiding Syrian forces in their offensive to recapture the rebel stronghold of Qusayr, saying they are carrying out their "jihadist duty."

The designation would thwart the organization's fundraising efforts in Europe, as well as freeze any assets members have there and ban them from traveling to the continent. 

The three countries' foreign ministers spoke out against Hezbollah's efforts in Syria, hoping to achieve the support of the EU's 27 member nations, which has thus far been impossible to achieve.

"Because of the decisions that have been taken by Hezbollah and the fact that they are fighting very harshly the Syrian population, we have decided to ask that the military branch of the Hezbollah would be considered as a terrorist organization," French Foreign Minister Fabius told reporters Wednesday.

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Wednesday that the country supported "at least the military wing" of the organization being designated as a terrorist group, joining Britain in a chorus to "work closely with our European partners on this issue to reach a robust, collective EU position," the New York Times reported

However, Sylke Tempel, editor-in-chief of German foreign relations journal Internationale Politik, told the Times it makes little sense to pass a resolution that only focuses on Hezbollah's military operations. 

“I don’t know if ... you really can say there’s a political wing and a terrorist wing,” Tempel said. “They belong together like my left leg and my right leg.”

The effort to label the group as terrorists also stems from Bulgaria's accusations in February that Hezbollah was behind a terrorist attack that killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver last July. 

More from GlobalPost: Hezbollah ups the ante, helps rout Syrian rebels near Lebanon's border

European nations have long been divided over their attitudes to Hezbollah, with Germany and France concerned that placing it on the terrorist list could hurt European influence in Lebanon, and increase the risk of instability in that country and the wider region.

Those divisions prevented the EU blacklisting the organization even after the attack in Bulgaria.

However growing evidence of the group's involvement in terror planning in Europe, concern about Iran's growing influence over the movement and above all Hezbollah’s increasingly active support for the Assad regime in Syria seem to have shifted opinion.

With France, Germany and the UK — the EU's three biggest foreign policy players — now supporting blacklisting at least the military wing of Hezbollah, it looks likely the EU will move to boycott the group. EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the issue at their next meeting on Monday.

Although Hezbollah remains an important player in Lebanon, Western intelligence officials say the group's identification as a Shi’ite militant group have diminished its influence in the wider Arab world as sectarian divisions have widened in recent years. That too may make European nations less uneasy about blacklisting it.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/130523/hezbollah-labeled-terrorist-group-france-britain-germany