Thursday, 3 July 2008

BRITAIN'S SLY CRIMINALISATION OF POPULAR, DEMOCRATIC LEBANESE HEZBOLLAH

Britain tightens ban on Hezbollah
Wed Jul 2, 2008

LONDON (Reuters) - The government has asked parliament to
outlaw Hezbollah's military wing and accused the
Iranian-backed Lebanese group of supporting terrorism in
Iraq and the Palestinian territories, a government
statement said.

"This means that it will be a criminal offence to belong
to, fundraise and encourage support for the military wing
of the organisation," the Home Office said in a statement
on Wednesday.

The ban, which needs parliamentary approval, would replace
one on Hezbollah's "external security organisation". The
statement said it would not affect the group's political,
social and humanitarian activities.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said he was not
surprised by the decision.

"I consider it a natural decision to be issued by a
founding bloc of the Zionist entity," Nasrallah said in a
televised press conference in Beirut.

"Every time a decision is issued against resistance
movements ... we consider this a medal of honour," he
added.

It was not immediately clear how the amended ban would be
implemented. Although the group comprises guerrilla
fighters, members of parliament, social, medical and
reconstruction workers, it is highly centralised and all
members undergo military training.

Hezbollah has never denied helping Palestinian factions but
has rarely revealed how. It has not claimed to aid Iraq
groups, but Nasrallah in May announced that the group was
unequivocally with the "Iraqi resistance".

"Hezbollah's military wing is providing active support to
militants in Iraq who are responsible for attacks both on
coalition forces and on Iraqi civilians, including
providing training in the use of deadly roadside bombs,"
the home office statement said.

"Hezbollah's military wing also provides support to
Palestinian terrorist groups in the Occupied Palestinian
Territories, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It is
because of this support for terrorism in Iraq and Occupied
Palestinian Territories that the government has taken this
action."

Toby Dodge, an Iraq specialist at the International
Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said the move
may have come at the request of the United States, and
reflected suspicions that Iran was using its ally Hezbollah
as a proxy against U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.

"The suggestion is the Iranians are using Hezbollah as
sub-contractors in Iraq," he said.

Dodge said the move also reflected London's unease over
both Hezbollah's international role and its actions in
Lebanon, where its fighters humbled the government in May
in clashes that pushed the country to the brink of civil
war. The crisis was later defused by a Qatari-mediated
agreement.

Britain said it continued to urge Hezbollah to abandon its
status as an armed group and take part in Lebanese
democracy on the same terms as other political parties.

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