Canadian diplomats mounted a behind-the-scenes push to convince European countries to outlaw the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, a government official said in an interview Wednesday.
For the past year, the blacklisting of Hezbollah on the continent has been a Department of Foreign Affairs priority — one that apparently paid off this week when the European Union agreed to ban the military wing of the so-called Party of God.
The diplomatic effort began last July, after a bus carrying Israeli tourists was bombed in Bulgaria by suspected Hezbollah operatives. Following a discussion with Hillary Clinton, then the U.S. Secretary of State, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird instructed his officials to persuade the EU to proscribe Hezbollah.
Sources outside the government confirmed that Ottawa had been pressing Europe over Hezbollah. "Canadian diplomats were not passive bystanders in this debate, and I understand they had conversations and meetings with their European counterparts, explaining why Canada perceived this to be an important issue," said Matt Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a security and foreign policy think tank in Washington, D.C., said he was "aware that Canada was very active diplomatically in helping persuade the EU."
Canadian security agencies have long experience with Hezbollah, which uses the country as a base for fundraising and procurement. Last year, a Quebecer accused of trying to smuggle AR-15 rifles to Hezbollah became the first woman charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act.