Bulgaria says clear signs Hezbollah behind Burgas bombing

SOFIA Thu Jul 18, 2013 12:56pm EDT

Buses that were damaged in a bomb blast on Wednesday are seen outside Burgas Airport, about 400km (248miles) east of Sofia July 19, 2012. REUTERS/Interior Ministry/Handout

Buses that were damaged in a bomb blast on Wednesday are seen outside Burgas Airport, about 400km (248miles) east of Sofia July 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Interior Ministry/Handout

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SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria has no doubts that the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah was behind a bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver at the Black Sea city of Burgas exactly a year ago, the interior minister said on Thursday.

"There are clear signs that say Hezbollah is behind the Burgas bombing," Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev told reporters before a commemoration ceremony and opening of a monument to the victims of the attack at the Burgas airport.

Hezbollah denies any involvement in the attack

Evidence that Hezbollah was behind the bombing was a main reason why Britain sought the blacklisting of the Shi'ite Muslim's group military wing by the European Union, a move that has yet to win the support of some governments.

EU ambassadors discussed the issue on Thursday but a small number of countries objected to the British proposal, diplomats said. EU foreign ministers will now attempt to reach an agreement at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

"There will be a discussion on Monday. There is near-consensus and we are confident it will be agreed," said one EU diplomat from a country backing the proposal.

However, another diplomatic source said more consideration should be given to the impact that blacklisting Hezbollah's military wing would have on stability in the Middle East.

Under a compromise proposal under discussion, Brussels could blacklist Hezbollah's military wing while stressing it is open to talking to the movement's political faction.

Yovchev said that since the new Socialist government took office at the end of May, Sofia has received more information from foreign services that also points to Hezbollah's involvement.

Bulgaria will need more time to conclude its investigation and bring the case to court, he said.

Speaking at the ceremony in Burgas, Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said agencies from the EU countries, the United States, Israel, Australia, Canada and Lebanon were helping the Bulgarian investigation.

"I think it is important that the EU works for a consensus decision to allow the blacklisting of Hezbollah's military wing and at the same time, keep the cooperation with all political parties and the financial support for our important partner in the Middle East - Lebanon," he said.

Sofia still has to identify the bomber and track two of his accomplices, who authorities said were of Lebanese origin with Canadian and Australian passports and were connected to Hezbollah.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova; Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak, Adrian Croft and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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