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SYRIA

France wants Hezbollah added to terror blacklist

France is to call for the military arm of Hezbollah to be added to an EU terror blacklist due to its backing of the Syrian regime, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced on Wednesday.

France wants Hezbollah added to terror blacklist
Lebanese Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militants ride on a vehicle carrying a Fajr 5 missile during an annual parade. Photo Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP

"Because of the decisions that have been taken by Hezbollah and the fact that they are fighting very harshly the Syrian population, we have decided to ask that the military branch of the Hezbollah would be considered as a terrorist organisation," Fabius told reporters in English.

The United States has long designated the Lebanon-based militant group, which is backed by Iran, as a terrorist organisation and has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.

"Many of us European countries are on this line and my guess is that it will be a decision that will be taken by Europe," Fabius said, leaving a meeting of the Friends of Syria in Amman.

Hezbollah fighters have been pouring across the border from Lebanon to bolster regime forces battling to retake the rebel stronghold of Qusayr.

A source close to Hezbollah told AFP it "has sent new elite troops to Qusayr".

And Hezbollah's television channel broadcast images of funerals for five fighters it said had been killed carrying out their "jihadist duty".

Earlier US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US joins other nations "in condemning Hezbollah's destructive role of all of the foreign fighters who are in the region, particularly in Syria.

"Active military support to the Assad regime simply exacerbates the sectarian tensions and it perpetuates the regime's campaign of terror against its own people."

Kerry stressed that "the United States and other countries are not sending fighters on the ground, but Hezbollah is, coming across an international border, building a militia in order to attack the civilian citizens of Syria."

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SYRIA

French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
   
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
   
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
 
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
   
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
   
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
   
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
   
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
   
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.
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