JNN 24 July 2013 Brussels : The European Union placed the military wing of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah on its terror list on Monday in a major change of its policy toward the region. Iran Condemns EU decision to Black list Hezbollah .
The EU’s 28 foreign ministers reached the decision unanimously at their monthly meeting, swiftly swaying the last nations that had any doubts, AP reported.
It came after prolonged diplomatic pressure from the United states, Britain and Israel.
The blacklisting would mean imposing visa bans on individuals and asset freezes on organizations associated with the group.
“I’m satisfied that we took this important step today, by dealing with the military wing of Hezbollah, freezing its assets, hindering its fundraising and thereby limiting its capacity to act,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans.
Last week, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman asked the European Union not to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
The Lebanese president made the remarks in a statement issued by his office on Thursday.
Suleiman had “asked the foreign minister to notify the European Commission and member states of the government’s request, and not to place Hezbollah, an essential component of Lebanese society, on the list of terror organizations,” the statement said.
He told the EU in the statement not to take “any decision… in a precipitate manner, and without being based on objective and irrefutable proof.”
Earlier this month, Britain renewed its efforts to get Hezbollah on the EU’s terror list, but France, Italy and Germany are still reluctant to back the British move.
On June 4, EU counter-terrorism specialists met on the issue but failed to reach an agreement.
Last year, the EU flatly rejected an Israeli call to blacklist Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
The EU regards Hezbollah as an active political party in Lebanon. It says there is not enough evidence to warrant listing the Lebanese group as a “terror group.”
Led by France, European countries argue that their relations with Lebanon, where Hezbollah provides extensive social services and its political wing holds government power, would be damaged by the designation.
Iran has condemned the European Union’s decision to put the military wing of Lebanese group Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations, describing it as a “biased” move.
The decision goes against all political and legal norms, is “surprising”, and is “unacceptable”, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday.
Pressed by Britain and the Netherlands, the European Union blacklisted Hezbollah’s armed wing on Monday over accusations it was involved in a bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israelis and their driver a year ago, and its deployment of thousands of fighters to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to Reuters.
According to BBC, the decision makes it illegal for Hezbollah sympathizers in Europe to send the group money, and enables the freezing of the group’s assets there.
In a statement, Hezbollah said the EU decision “was written by American hands with Israeli ink.”
The group said the move “has no justification and is not based on any proof.”
Some EU member states had been wary of the measure, saying it could further destabilize the situation in Lebanon.
The Iranian foreign minister said, “To label a resistance group, which has been fighting against invasion and occupation and has a legal presence, with the people’s support, in the Lebanese system of governance, as terrorist shows the loose logical foundations on which the move is based.”
“Such measures will not change the popular and truth-seeking nature of” Hezbollah, Salehi said, adding, “The European Union’s move will serve the illegitimate interests of the Zionist regime.”
On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi also condemned the move as “ill-advised” and “surprising”, saying, “Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s political structure and… is welcomed and respected by the people of this country and the Muslim world.”
Araqchi expressed hope that the EU would review its decision.