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ARAB EUROPEAN RELATIONS - July 4 - UK Envoy Finesses 'Terrorist' Label On Hizbullah's Armed Wing.

The British ambassador to Lebanon, Frances Mary Guy, clarifies her government's recent move to classify the military wing of Hizbullah as a terrorist organisation in an interview published in the Lebanese daily. Guy denied implications that the announcement's timing was suspicious after wide-spread speculation that it was intended to coincide with the prisoner exchange deal between Hizbullah and Israel. "This decision has been studied for a long time and it became necessary to announce it quickly due to the legislative process of the United Kingdom", she said. "The Ministry of the Interior presented its request to Parliament on July 2 so that it could be researched before its session on the 22nd of this month". Guy also emphasized that the ban did not apply to Hizbullah's political wing, and the British government was open to direct communication with the party as long as "that communication is encouraging its members to abandon violence and play a constructive role in Lebanese politics". "We respect Hizbullah's political, economic, and humanitarian role in Lebanon, and we encourage it to share in the political process like all the other Lebanese factions", She said. The decision was motivated, Guy said, by evidence Hizbullah is training and supporting insurgent groups in Iraq, especially in the use of roadside explosives that have killed numerous Iraqi civilians as well as members of the allied forces in Iraq. "There was no pressure on the British government [from Israel and the US]", she said. "The government has been studying this issue carefully for some time and the decision is based on our evaluation of Hizbullah's role in terrorist acts in the region including violent acts targeting the allied forces in Iraq". Guy denied that the decision was intended to punish Hizbullah for its role in the conflict in early May that led to opposition forces briefly taking over most of western Beirut, saying: The United Kingdom condemns Hizbullah for the violence of the events of last May, but we make this decision to ban the military wing of Hizbullah for completely separate reasons that have no connection to those events". The UK banned Hizbullah's "external security organisation" in 2001, but stopped short of declaring the entire military wing a terrorist organisation. The new classification, if adopted by Parliament, would make working with, raising funds or encourage support for Hizbullah's military wing illegal. Hizbullah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that Britain's decision to blacklist the Lebanese resistance group's military wing as a terrorist organisation was an "honor" but questioned the timing of the move. "Each time there is such a decision by the colonialists, we consider it a medal, an honor which attests that we are on the right path for our people", Nasrallah said in a press conference. "But the timing is suspect because it coincides with a prisoner swap", he said, referring to an agreement that will involve Israel releasing five Lebanese fighters and the remains of Hizbullah members in exchange for two Israeli soldiers captured in a cross-border raid two years ago - or their bodies.

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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Date:Jul 5, 2008
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