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Opposition: Hezbollah must stand trial

24 July 2013, 10:12

Beirut - The Syrian opposition said on Tuesday that Hezbollah leaders should be put on trial for their role in the Syrian civil war, reflecting the growing hostility between the two sides over the Lebanese militant group supporting President Bashar Assad's forces.

Meanwhile, a United Nations delegation tasked with investigating the use of chemical weapons on the Syrian civil war arrived in Lebanon on their way to Syria for the first time, after accepting a Syrian government invitation to visit Damascus for talks.

Hezbollah's decision to support Assad's forces in their assault on rebel-held areas in Syria is highly divisive and has fanned the flames of sectarian hatreds in the region.

The Syrian conflict, now in its third year, is increasingly being fought along sectarian lines, pitting Sunni against Shiite Muslims and threatening the stability of Syria's neighbours.

The Sunni rebels fighting to topple Assad, see Hezbollah's involvement as a declaration of war.

Hezbollah was instrumental in helping government forces seize the strategic town of Qusair near the Lebanese border last month, and its members are believed to be currently fighting alongside regime forces in the central province of Homs.

"We call for Hezbollah leaders to be put on trial for the terrorist crimes they committed on Syrian territory," a statement issued by the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, Syria's main opposition group, said on Tuesday.

Placed on terror list

The European Union's 28 foreign ministers placed Hezbollah's military wing on its terror list on Monday after prolonged diplomatic pressure from the US and Israel, both which consider the group a terrorist organisation.

Some European countries had pushed for EU action citing a terrorist attack in Bulgaria's Black Sea resort of Burgas last year that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian.

Hezbollah's military wing was accused of involvement, an allegation it denied.

Several EU nations have pointed to Hezbollah's involvement in Syria as further reason for the move.

The coalition did not say where Hezbollah leaders should face trial, and the prospects of senior Hezbollah figures ever appearing in a courtroom to answer for the Iranian-backed group's role in Syria are slim.

Decision hailed

The opposition group hailed the EU decision but stressed the need for European countries to take "concrete steps that would contribute to stopping the militia's involvement in Syria".

Iran and Syria, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that the EU's decision serves Israel's interests.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Araghchi told a news conference in Tehran that the designation was "strange" and "uncalculated" and won't change Hezbollah's "popular and justice-seeking identity".

Syria's civil war has killed more than 93 000 people, displaced millions and is likely to drag on for months or years more. In addition to the bloodshed, both sides accuse each other of using chemical weapons in the war.

- AP


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