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Source: Poland, Czech Republic balk on blacklisting Hezbollah

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(JTA) — Poland and the Czech Republic expressed “reservations” about blacklisting Hezbollah at a discussion in Brussels earlier this month, JTA has learned.

Both Poland and the Czech Republic are considered more supportive of Israel than Western European nations that supported blacklisting Hezbollah, the source said.

Denmark, Sweden, Germany and France support blacklisting Hezbollah, the source said. It has long been believed that France was blocking such a move out of concern that it would diminish European influence in Lebanon, a former French colony.

The positions were expressed at a June 4 meeting to discuss Europe’s response to claims that Hezbollah was behind a July bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria. The source also reported that a Bulgarian representative said the link between Hezbollah and the attack was “weak,” an apparent retreat from Bulgaria’s announcement in February that the Lebanese group was behind the Burgas attack, which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian national.

Convened at the request of the United Kingdom, the meeting was intended to initiate a European Union effort to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing. Efforts to name Hezbollah a terrorist group intensified after Bulgaria’s announced in February that it believed two Hezbollah operatives were responsible for the attack.

Bulgaria’s foreign minister, Kristian Vigenin, said Monday that Sofia stands by its February announcement.

Though Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist entity in Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in Europe only the Netherlands deems it so. Britain considers only the group’s military wing to be terrorist. Counter-terrorism experts say the European position has enabled Hezbollah to use the continent to launder moneys and raise funds.

According to the source, the Dutch representative expressed unreserved support for the British proposal to blacklist Hezbollah, and even confronted a representative of Malta about his reluctance to do this out of the concern for the stability of Lebanon, where Hezbollah is an important political player.

Joining Poland and the Czech Republic — both traditional Israeli allies in Europe — was Finland, the source said. The Wall Street Journal has also reported that Austria is opposed, while The Jerusalem Post, quoting unnamed Israeli officials, reported that Ireland was also against. The Irish embassy declined to comment

According to the source, representatives from the Baltic nations were among several envoys who stayed silent during the discussion, which was attended by diplomats from the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union and some experts.

“This was not an official vote but it helped form a picture of how such an eventual vote would look like,” another source in Brussels said.

On Wednesday, E.U. spokesman David Kriss responded to various accounts of the June 4 meeting with a general statement, saying that “discussions are continuing between the E.U. member states on the issue of listing Hezbollah” and that “any decision requires the unanimous support” of all of 27 E.U. member states.

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