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Russia says Hezbollah not a terrorist group - Ifax

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov talks during a news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Beirut December 5, 2014. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/Files

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow does not consider Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah to be a terrorist organisation, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying on Sunday.

Russia is seeking an international agreement on what groups active in the Syrian conflict should be deemed terrorist and which can be involved in negotiations for a political settlement, but Moscow’s view differs from that of Washington.

On Saturday, participants at talks in Vienna on Syria agreed that Jordan will coordinate efforts to compile a common list of terrorist groups.

“Some say Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. We maintain contacts and relations with them because we do not consider them a terrorist organisation,” Bogdanov was quoted as saying on Sunday.

“They have never committed any terrorist acts on Russian territory. Hezbollah was elected by people to the Lebanese parliament. There are cabinet members and ministers who are from Hezbollah in Lebanon. It’s a legitimate socio-political force.”

Hezbollah forces are fighting in Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is also a Moscow ally.

The United States and European Union classify Hezbollah as having ties to terrorist groups. They also view the group with suspicion because of its close ties to Tehran.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Greg Mahlich