Israel and the United States called Tuesday on
Europe to take action against Hezbollah, after Bulgaria blamed the
Iranian-backed Lebanese group for a July terrorist attack that killed
five Israeli tourists in the eastern European country.
The European Union has been urged to blacklist Hezbollah before, but its 27 member states have so far not been able to produce the unanimous decision needed for such a move.
The bloc needs time for "a reflection over the outcome" of Bulgaria's investigation, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement released before it was urged to take action.
"The EU and member states will discuss the appropriate response based on all elements identified by the investigators," she said, while noting that the EU condemns any act of terrorism and that those responsible for the Burgas attack should be brought to justice.
"I'm not avoiding it," Ashton later told journalists in Brussels when pressed on the Hezbollah issue at the margins of a Mali conference. "I just think we have to really think about this ... We have to consider very carefully what we do."
John Kerry, secretary of state of the United States which labels Hezbollah a terrorist group, discussed the threat with Ashton, and a spokeswoman said in Washington that Ashton "knows where we want to go."
According to Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, preliminary results of its investigations indicate that the bombing was organized by members of the Lebanese organization.
The blast on the parking lot of the airport in the Black Sea resort of Burgas killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver. The bomber also died.
Tsvetanov said that two of three people involved in the attack had been identified. One had an Australian and one a Canadian passport, but both had been residing in Lebanon since 2006, he added.
In the wake of the Bulgarian announcement, Israel, which has been pushing to have the EU declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization, called on Europe to "draw the necessary conclusions as to the true character of Hezbollah."
"This is yet a further corroboration of what we have already known, that Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons are orchestrating a worldwide campaign of terror that is spanning countries and continents," a statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
"The attack in Burgas was only one of a series of recent terrorist operations against civilians in Thailand, Kenya, Turkey, India, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Georgia. All this is happening in parallel to the deadly support given by Hezbollah and Iran to the murderous Assad regime in Syria," the statement said.
The White House advisor on counterterrorism John Brennan urged Europe to disrupt Hezbollah's terrorist networks and commended Bulgaria for its "professional and comprehensive" investigation. The US helped in the investigation at the request of the Bulgarian government.
The United States is concerned that Hezbollah is spreading its roots in Europe, for banking and plotting new attacks, even as the US clamps down on it elsewhere, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. She said "varying views" on the difference between Hezbollah's military wing and the political wing has kept the European Union from labelling Hezbollah a terrorist group.
The US was hoping that Bulgaria's announcement would galvanize Europe's "internal conversations."
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