France backs call to put Hezbollah armed wing on EU terror list

PARIS Thu May 23, 2013 2:50am EDT

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speaks to the media after the Friends of Syria alliance meeting in Amman May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speaks to the media after the Friends of Syria alliance meeting in Amman May 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Muhammad Hamed

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PARIS (Reuters) - France is ready to support a British initiative to put the armed wing of Hezbollah on the European Union's list of terrorist organizations, an official said on Thursday, confirming comments by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Paris has traditionally been cautious about backing steps to sanction Hezbollah, fearing it could destabilize Lebanon and potentially put U.N. peacekeepers at risk, but in recent weeks it has said it would consider all options.

Britain said on Tuesday it asked the EU to put Hezbollah's military arm on the list, citing evidence of the Islamist group's involvement in an attack that killed five Israelis.

Citing comments made by Fabius at the end of the Friends of Syria conference in Amman on Wednesday, the French official said the increased help Hezbollah had given to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had encouraged to Paris to rethink its position.

"Given the decisions that Hezbollah has taken and the fact that it has fought extremely hard against the Syrian population, I confirm that France will propose to place Hezbollah's military wing on the list of terrorist organizations," Fabius said.

On Wednesday, German diplomats said Berlin would also support Britain's request, which will be discussed in early June by a special EU working group.

Hezbollah guerrillas are fighting their biggest battle yet for Assad, and about 30 were killed on Sunday, Syrian activists said, during fighting in the rebel stronghold of Qusair, near the Lebanese border.

France, the former colonial ruler in Lebanon, has about 900 troops as part of the U.N. peacekeeping force in the country.

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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