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U.S. puts Hezbollah on notice

March 22, 2013 at 9:14 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- The conviction of a Hezbollah courier in a Cyprus sends a strong message that the group can't hide from justice, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman said.

Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, who has dual Swedish-Lebanese citizenship, was convicted Thursday in Cyprus of functioning as a courier for Hezbollah. A Cypriot judge said Hezbollah had acted as a criminal organization, The New York Times reported.

The State Department said Hezbollah attacked Israeli citizens in Bulgaria two weeks after Yaacoub was arrested. He said he didn't know why he'd been asked to track Israeli citizens in Cyprus.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the verdict was indicative of the growing concerns over Hezbollah's international reach.

"(It) underscores the need for our European allies -- and other governments around the world -- to crack down on this deadly group and to send a strong message that Hezbollah can no longer operate with impunity, at home or abroad," she said in a statement.

Hezbollah's political arm has Cabinet-level positions in the Lebanese government. The European Union maintains listing the organization as a terrorist entity would interfere with diplomatic relations with Beirut.

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