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Hezbollah Not on Russia's Terrorist List

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By HENRY MEYER
The Associated Press
Friday, July 28, 2006; 7:45 PM

MOSCOW -- Russia on Friday published a list of 17 groups it regards as terrorist organizations, but did not include the Palestinian militant movement Hamas or Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla group, both regarded as terrorists in Washington.

Separately, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Hezbollah must have a say in any agreements in the Middle East crisis, Russian news agencies reported _ another sign of differences between Russia and the United States about the region.

"Any agreements must be coordinated with all the basic forces in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, as an organization that is represented in the parliament and government of Lebanon," RIA-Novosti reported quoted Lavrov as saying on a plane returning from an Asian security meeting in Malaysia. Hezbollah has 11 members in Lebanon's 128-seat parliament, and two Cabinet ministers.

The terrorist list, published in the official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta, included al-Qaida and the Taliban as well as the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a rebel group fighting for Kashmir's independence from India, and Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The Russian Federal Security Service's top official in charge of fighting international terrorism, Yuri Sapunov, said Hamas and Hezbollah were not a major threat to Russia and were not regarded as terrorist groups worldwide.

But he said Russian security agencies took account of international lists of terrorist groups when exchanging intelligence with foreign counterparts.

Sapunov told Rossiiskaya Gazeta the list of 17 "includes only those organizations which represent the greatest threat to the security of our country." Groups linked to separatist militants in Chechnya and Islamic radicals in Central Asia made the list.

Russia has come under criticism for its refusal to list Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations.

Israel is now fighting a ground and air war in Lebanon against Hezbollah guerrillas, who are firing rockets into northern Israel. Israeli forces have also attacked the Gaza Strip to target Hamas militants. Russia has criticized the scale of the Israeli offensive, while the United States has blamed Hezbollah for the violence.

President Vladimir Putin earlier this year provoked U.S. and Israeli anger by inviting leaders of Hamas to Moscow shortly after their January election victory. The meeting made no progress in softening the group's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist or foreswear violence.

Lavrov's reported comment about Hezbollah echoed the arguments Russian officials made for inviting Hamas leaders, when they said that they were dealing with Hamas as an entity that had just come to power in elections.

Lavrov said that Russia's support for a Hezbollah role in decision-making in the Mideast crisis was shared by European countries and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, adding: "As for support from the Americans for this position, I have no such information," RIA-Novosti reported.

The European Union considers Hamas a terrorist organization and along with the United States slapped financial sanctions on the new Hamas-led government. But it does not list Hezbollah as a terrorist group.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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