Tue Nov 21, 2006 4:11 PM ET
By Paul Hughes
LONDON (Reuters) - World leaders condemned the killing on Tuesday of a
Lebanese Christian cabinet minister, with Western powers vowing to do their
utmost to prevent the collapse of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's unsteady
Pierre Gemayel, shot dead near Beirut, was the fourth outspoken anti-Syrian
critic to be killed in Lebanon since the 1995 assassination of former Prime
Minister Rafik al-Hariri sparked a period of political upheaval in the
U.S. President George W. Bush, speaking in Hawaii, called for a full
investigation to "identify those people and those forces behind the killing."
The industry minister's death coincides with sharp differences between
Lebanon's anti-Syrian majority and the pro-Damascus opposition led by
Hezbollah, which is determined to topple what it sees as a pro-U.S.
Finland, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, urged all
political factions in Lebanon to "refrain from activities that would further
endanger the political stability ... (and) reiterates the EU's full support to
the legitimate and democratically elected Lebanese government."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair also voiced support to Siniora, whose
government has been rocked by a devastating July-August conflict between
Hezbollah and Israel and the resignation of six pro-Syrian ministers this
"We need to do everything we can, particularly at this moment, to protect
democracy in Lebanon and the premiership of Prime Minister Siniora," Blair
SYRIA, IRAN ALSO CONDEMN
Many Lebanese blame Syria for the killing of Hariri in a suicide truck bombing
in February 2005.
Damascus denies involvement, although a U.N. commission investigating the
assassination has implicated senior Lebanese and Syrian security officials.
Bush stopped just short of assigning blame to Syria and Iran for the killing
He said the United States backed Lebanese efforts to "defend their democracy
against attempts by Syria, Iran and allies to foment instability and violence
in that important country."
Syria and Iran, key backers of Hezbollah, were quick to condemn the killing.
"This is a crime aimed at destabilizing Lebanon. Syria is careful about
preserving Lebanon's security, unity and civil peace," the official Syrian
news agency SANA said.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said: "No doubt this
act has been carried out by Lebanon's enemies ... that don't want Lebanon to
become a symbol ... of the victory of resistance in the region."
Arab leaders called for calm, while steering carefully clear of blaming any
particular side for the violence.
"The Lebanese have to unify their ranks at this phase and not allow the
preachers of death, disunity and destruction to succeed in creating a split in
the cohesion of the Lebanese people," Jordan's King Abdullah said.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said: "We call the Lebanese parties to engage
in dialogue for the interest of Lebanon. There should not be any differences,
in order not to lose Lebanon."
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