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U.S. officials press Europe on Hezbollah

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. government officials called on Europe to list Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

"For too long Hezbollah has tried to pose as nothing more than a political and social welfare group while plotting against innocents in Eastern Europe, from Eastern Europe to East Africa, from Southeast Asia to South America," Vice President Joe Biden told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference on Monday.

"We know what Israel knows: Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. Period," Biden said. "And we — and me — we are urging every nation in the world that we deal with — and we deal with them all — to start treating Hezbollah as such and naming them as a terrorist organization."

Other speakers, including Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, made the same call.

Bulgaria’s recent determination that the Lebanon-based group was behind a July suicide bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver, as well as revelations arising out of a trial in Cyprus of a Hezbollah operative, has intensified U.S. and Israeli calls on Europe to list the group as terrorist.

The European Union has resisted such calls until now, in part because Hezbollah forms part of the government of Lebanon and such a listing could inhibit influence on that country while turmoil in neighboring Syria threatens to spill over.

Daniel Benjamin, until January the top counterterrorism adviser to the secretary of state, told the conference he believes such a listing is imminent.

"I am optimistic — not certain, but optimistic — we will see European-wide action against Hezbollah," he said.

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