Bulgaria says EU could still act against Hezbollah

BRUSSELS Wed Mar 27, 2013 9:24pm GMT

Bulgaria's interim Prime Minister Marin Raikov speaks during an official ceremony in Sofia March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Bulgaria's interim Prime Minister Marin Raikov speaks during an official ceremony in Sofia March 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Bulgaria will provide more evidence Hezbollah planned an attack that killed five Israelis, in a move it said on Wednesday should convince European Union countries to put the Islamist group on its terrorist list.

Bulgaria accused the Lebanese militant movement on February 5 of carrying out a bomb attack on a bus in the Black Sea city of Burgas that killed the Israelis and their Bulgarian driver last July.

This led the EU to consider putting the group on its list of terrorist organisations, according to a spokeswoman for the bloc on February 6. But many European governments are cautious about imposing sanctions on Hezbollah, arguing it could fuel tensions in the Middle East.

Bulgaria presented the results of its bomb probe to EU foreign ministers on February 18, urging them to take a harder stance towards Hezbollah. But two days later, Bulgaria's government resigned after mass protests over an economic crisis.

Diplomat Marin Raikov, appointed interim prime minister pending elections in May, has said Bulgaria will not initiate the EU procedure for blacklisting Hezbollah. Any other EU government could request such a move, but none has yet done so.

Some EU countries were "not sufficiently convinced" by Bulgaria's evidence, Raikov said in Brussels on Wednesday.

"For Bulgaria it is of key importance to have a common position, to have a consensus on this (within the EU)," he told reporters during a visit to NATO headquarters.

"We will continue the investigation. We will continue to work on this very seriously, very actively. We will provide the needed evidence," he said.

"But it's not for Bulgaria to initiate the technical procedure for the listing (of Hezbollah). I think that our partners will be able to do this once they reach a certain level of consensus on this issue," he said.

CONCESSION

Bulgaria has not given a reason for not requesting an EU listing of Hezbollah. But Bulgarian opposition groups have argued the country could open itself up to more attacks if it takes the lead in blacklisting Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has dismissed Bulgaria's accusations and accused Israel of waging a smear campaign against it.

Israel blamed the attack in Burgas on Iran and Hezbollah. Iran has denied responsibility and accused Israel of plotting and carrying out the bus bombing.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned last week after a cabinet dispute with Hezbollah, a dominant force in Lebanese politics.

In Europe, only the Netherlands lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group, while Britain blacklists its military wing.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said earlier this month that Britain would be in favour of Hezbollah's military wing being blacklisted at European level as well.

European governments and companies must cease any financial dealings with groups on the list.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Jason Webb)

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