July 17, 2003
EU shelves action to blacklist Hamas - diplomats
BRUSSELS, July 17 (Reuters) - The European Union has shelved moves to outlaw the political wing of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, despite pressure from the United States and Israel, after it accepted a ceasefire, diplomats disclosed on Thursday.
EU ambassadors agreed in early July to halt steps to add Hamas to the bloc's blacklist of banned terrorist organisations, which would have led to the freezing of its assets and possible prosecution of its activists.
EU leaders meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece, on June 20, before three Palestinian militant groups accepted a three-month ceasefire, called for an urgent examination of the case for wider action against Hamas fundraising.
"In the circumstances, we agreed not to take any immediate action," a senior EU diplomat said. "We agreed to keep the issue under review (and) return to it if there is a breach in the ceasefire caused by a Hamas return to terrorism."
EU foreign ministers will hold separate meetings next Monday with the Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers in a drive to aid implementation of the "road map" peace plan for a Palestinian state, and to assert the EU's role alongside Washington in the Quartet of international diplomatic midwives.
The EU last year blacklisted Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.
France led the opposition to outlawing Hamas' political wing, arguing it had a potential role to play in peace efforts, while Britain pushed for the EU to join the United States in banning it too.
The executive European Commission pointed to the social welfare services provided by the organisation's charitable arm.
"You can't say that the whole of Hamas is a terrorist organisation, and certainly that is not our position," chief Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen said last month.