E.U. Could Classify Hezbollah As Terrorist Group, U.S. State Department Says

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By Maya Shwayder | December 20, 2012 6:00 AM EST

The European Union may soon be adding Hezbollah to their list of terrorist groups, a U.S. State Department Official hinted on Tuesday night.

During an address at the Brookings Institution, Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's Coordinator for Counterterrorism,  said that the U.S. is "urging countries to take a wide range of range of steps to crack down on Hezbollah and the Qods Force."

"We've been engaging with our partners in Europe, and we are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for an E.U. designation of the group."

Benjamin later told the Jerusalem Post that the U.S. has been providing E.U. countries with intelligence on possible Hezbollah activity, but shouldn't put a time frame on when such a designation would occur. 

Such a designation would change the way Europe monitors its borders, if nothing else. Of particular suspicion is the bus bombing in Bulgaria last July that killed five Israeli tourists and bore all the hallmarks of a Hezbollah-type attack.

"Obviously if the Europeans feel that the proof is decisive then they'll have to confront the fact that Hezbollah carried out an attack in Europe," Benjamin told the JPost.

Hezbollah, which operates mostly in Lebanon, is already classified as a terrorist group, in whole or in part, by the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Israel, Egypt, and Bahrain.

The U.S., the U.K. and the Dutch have previously urged the E.U. to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. British Foreign Minister William Hague told the press on September 11, 2012 that, he would "like to see the EU designate and sanction the military wing of Hezbollah."

In October, John Brennan, a terrorism advisor to the White House, told reporters that, "Failure to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization makes it harder to defend our countries and protect our citizens. We call upon our European allies and partners – including the EU – to join us, not only in recognizing Hezbollah’s terrorist and criminal activities, but in condemning and disrupting those activities."

Hezbollah also has strong ties to Hamas, the ruling body of the Gaza Strip, which is already classified as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the E.U., as well as the U.S., Canada, and Japan. 

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