Bulgaria opposition chief: Wrong to blame Hezbollah

Bulgaria opposition chief: Wrong to blame Hezbollah

Report on Burgas bombing prompts political row in Sofia; European Council to discuss new findings on July terrorist attack

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Bulgarian opposition leader Sergey Stanishev (photo credit: CC BY-SA Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδας, Flickr)
Bulgarian opposition leader Sergey Stanishev (photo credit: CC BY-SA Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδας, Flickr)

Bulgaria’s opposition head struck out at Sofia’s leadership for placing blame on Hezbollah for a July bus bombing, drawing criticism from a member of the EU’s parliament for “siding with Hezbollah.”

A report released by Bulgaria Tuesday into the July 18 bombing in the resort town of Burgas, which killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian, fingered the Lebanese group as being behind the attack, a move which some hope will lead Europe to label the Shi’ite organization as a terror group.

The report was to be discussed at a European Council meeting on Thursday, according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, which could be the first step toward changing Europe’s labeling of Hezbollah.

But Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergey Stanishev said that Sofia’s decision to implicate Hezbollah in the attack “is poorly founded and imperils the national security,” according to the Sofia News Agency.

“It is obvious that Bulgaria’s government has chosen a political approach and is only repeating the interpretation alleged by Israel on the very next day following the attack, when the investigation had not even started,” Stanishev was quoted by the BGNES agency saying.

The leader of the far-right Attack party — which has been accused of anti-Semitism and racism — said Bulgaria was pressured by the United States and Israel to blame Hezbollah, the Sofia Globe reported. The Bulgarian government denied the charge.

French European Parliament member Joseph Daul responded Wednesday saying he was dismayed that Stanishev “has taken the side of Hezbollah” and said that “when the credibility and responsibility of Bulgaria is being tested, all political leaders should stand together.”

Stanishev snapped back on Thursday saying Daul twisted his words and, had he bothered to check his facts, “he would have seen that even members of his own EPP group were hesitant in supporting [Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko] Borisov’s government on this issue.”

“It is ironic that on the very day that the European Parliament debates the rule of law and media freedom in Bulgaria, Mr. Daul has committed exactly the same faults that so concern the European Parliament,” he added.

Tuesday’s report sent shock waves through parts of Europe, where Hezbollah is still considered mainly a political organization.

Israel and the US have pushed for the group to be labeled a terror organization and several European countries have signaled they will consider the issue after studying the probe’s findings.

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