The European Union is poised to designate Hizballah as a terrorist group, media reports indicate.
The EU has hesitated to make the designation, which the United States did 12 years ago. The Gulf state Bahrain made a similar designation in March. Now, Britain has filed papers to initiate a process that could be complete in a few weeks, the AFP News Service reports.
"We hope to have an agreement by the end of June," an unnamed diplomat said, saying the British request would be discussed in a few weeks.
Last summer's bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria gave the EU drive new impetus. A Bulgarian investigation blamed Hizballah, which also is suspected in a series of other plots targeting Israeli officials in Europe and Asia.
The EU designation should help curb Hizballah business and banking interactions.
Meanwhile, the Iranian-backed terrorist group is suffering significant casualties in Syria, where it is helping dictator Bashar al-Assad push back against a popular rebellion. A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports 31 Hizballah deaths since Sunday in the fight to retake the town of Qusair, which has been rebel-controlled for the past year.
Hizballah's role is raising concerns about increased sectarian violence in Syria and in Lebanon, where Hizballah is a powerful political entity. Syrian rebels fired rockets at Hizballah targets in Lebanon in retaliation. No casualties were reported, but CNN noted that "the rockets underscored fears that bordering nations -- such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan -- will be sucked into the conflict, now in its third year."
The New York Times cites a statement from Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Mekdad who told Al-Arabiya television that the group considers Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah "a killer of the Syrian people."
The Syrian civil war largely pits Shia fighters from Hizballah and the Syrian military against Sunni opposition fighters, including jihadist groups.
"[I]ts new struggle against fellow Muslims has proved controversial at home," the Washington Post reported Tuesday, saying Hizballah wasn't talking about its Syrian casualties, "but the group's deepening role in the conflict is difficult to hide."
In the past, Hizballah has enjoyed strong support from American Islamist groups which defended the group as a "legitimate resistance" movement against Israel. Those same groups have been quiet about Hizballah's role in helping Assad kill thousands of Syrian citizens.