Netanyahu: Hezbollah planning 'global terror attacks'

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World leaders should declare Hezbollah a terrorist entity, Israel's leader has said, hours after Bulgaria blamed the Lebanese group for a deadly bus bomb.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hezbollah had built a "worldwide terrorist" network and was planning attacks in two dozen countries.

He spoke after Bulgaria said militants linked to the Shia group carried out the July 2012 Burgas bombing.

Five Israeli tourists and a bus driver died in the Black Sea resort attack.

Israeli quickly blamed Hezbollah - and Iran - for the bombing, which also saw some 30 people injured.

Meanwhile, Canada has said a dual Canadian-Lebanese national was involved in the bombing and is believed to be still at large.

Analysis

Long before this official report was released by the Bulgarian authorities, Israel had accused Hezbollah (and its principal sponsor, Iran) of being behind the Burgas attack.

Since the July 2012 bombing, Israel and the US have pressed European Union states to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation (denying it access to funding and other financial assets in Europe).

While some, including Britain and the Netherlands, might support such a move, other countries, such as France, oppose it. France counters that Hezbollah is a political and social as well as a militant organisation.

The French argue that proscribing it as an illegal terrorist organisation could destabilise Lebanon and its current coalition government, of which Hezbollah is part.

Iran has steadfastly denied any involvement, while Hezbollah has made no comment.

'Take action'

News of Bulgaria's investigation brought a swift response from Mr Netanyahu.

"This is further corroboration of what we also know, that Iran and Hezbollah have built a worldwide terrorist network.

"I believe that what is required right now... is to call it like it is.

"It's time to name Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, to take action against it."

His remarks followed an earlier statement in which he said only that European leaders should "reach the required conclusions".

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said there was a "need for reflection" over the Bulgaria bomb inquiry.

The EU and member states would "discuss the appropriate response", her office said in a statement.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the attack and said his country was "ready to co-operate" with Bulgaria, reports said.

In Washington, US counter-terrorism chief John Brennan said the group posed "a real and growing threat not only to Europe, but to the rest of the world".

Europe and the world should seek "to disrupt the group's financing schemes and operational networks in order to prevent future attacks", he added.

State department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US feared Hezbollah had "exploited" European rules to avoid a recent US "squeeze" on its banking facilities.

The aftermath of a suicide bomb attack in Burgas, Bulgaria (July 2012) It is still not clear whether the attack was a suicide bombing
'Heinous act'

Unveiling the results of the six-month inquiry in Sofia on Tuesday, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said two suspects holding Australian and Canadian passports were directly linked to Hezbollah.

"We have established that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah," he said.

"There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects."

Europol's director Rob Wainwright: "Reasonable assumption" attack was carried out by Hezbollah

The pair had lived in Lebanon since 2006 and 2010 respectively, the AFP news agency quoted Mr Tsvetanov as saying.

Canada's foreign minister - who backed Mr Netanyahu's call for a tougher line on Hezbollah - later confirmed a dual national Canadian-Lebanese was involved in the attack, and was believed to remain at large.

Before publishing its report, Bulgaria had avoided making public any suspicions about who was behind the Burgas attack.

Initial investigations - including the discovery of the bomber's head at the scene of the attack - suggested the strike may have been a suicide bombing.

But officials now believe the device may have been remote-controlled, or accidentally detonated by the bomber.

In The Hague, the director of Europol, which co-ordinates policing across the 27 European Union states, said he backed the Bulgarians' conclusions that Hezbollah was involved.

"From what I've seen... obvious links to Lebanon, from the modus operandi of the terrorist attack, from other intelligence that we see, I think that's a reasonable assumption," Rob Wainwright told the Associated Press.

If Hezbollah's involvement was proven, it would be the group's first successful terror attack in Europe since the mid-1980s, he said.

In the wake of the bombing, Bulgaria's prime minister said there was "no chance" of detecting the group's activities before the attack.

A photofit of the suspected bomber was released, but few details were known about his identity.

But an intensive police probe, with 50 officers deployed to Bulgaria by Europol, now appears to have led investigators to Hezbollah.

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