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FRUSTRATED JEWISH GROUP SUES CANADA

B'nai Brith Canada, frustrated by the Canadian government's failure to close what the Jewish organization considers a terrorist front, is suing to force Canada to ban all fund raising by the Iran-based Hezbollah (Party of God).

Frank Dimant, B'nai Brith executive vice president, said the group has filed a lawsuit in federal court "to convince our government to act more effectively to deal with terrorist organizations in this country."

The suit names Attorney-General Martin Cauchon, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham and the federal government.

Solicitor-General Wayne Easter said Canada has banned fund-raising for Hezbollah's military wing but allows activities by its charitable groups.

"Not all organizations and entities are the same," he said. "(With) some, there is a clear distinction between (charitable and terrorist) groups; (with others) there is not. We have to look at how they're structured."

But critics of the government's policy, including Stockwell Day of the opposition Canadian Alliance Party, said any distinction between a terrorist group's social work and killing is superficial at best.

"The leader of Hezbollah himself said there is no distinction between the military arm and the social arm of Hezbollah," and Canada should have declared it a criminal organization long ago, he said.

Last week, the federal government added eight groups -- including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- to its list of banned organizations but stopped short of adding Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, believed to be backed by the Iranian government, was the most active of the guerrilla groups that fought Israeli forces in southern Lebanon until Israel's withdrawal in May 2000.

It was also implicated in the 1983 suicide bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and the truck bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks there, which killed nearly 300 Americans.

Critics say Canada has been slow to act, despite reports by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service that Hezbollah has been using Canada as a money source through donations and thefts of luxury cars.

Intelligence provided by the U.S. Justice Department seems to back the allegations, claiming that a "major player" in Hezbollah has been sent to raise money in Vancouver for the group's terrorist operations. Still, Graham has insisted he will not outlaw the parts of Hezbollah that do "social and political work" in Lebanon.

The lawsuit alleges that by not banning Hezbollah, the government has violated its responsibilities to the Constitution and to U.N. regulations on suppressing terrorism.

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