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Lebanese Vent Anger on Syria After Hariri Killing
Reuters ^ | 2-15-05 | Alistair Lyon

Posted on 02/15/2005 1:11:46 PM PST by Indy Pendance

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese opposition leaders on Tuesday bluntly implicated Syria in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, with mourners taking out their anger on Syrian workers in the former prime minister's hometown.

Officials in Washington said President Bush would recall the U.S. ambassador in Syria, Margaret Scobey, for urgent consultations to show its anger at Syria's dominance of Lebanon following Hariri's murder.

The Sunni Muslim billionaire's death in a car bomb blast on Monday has spotlighted Lebanon's troubled ties with its powerful neighbor and revived memories of the 1975-90 civil war.

"This (Lebanese) regime is backed by the Syrians. This is the regime of terrorists and terrorism that was able yesterday to wipe out Rafik al-Hariri," Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said after presenting his condolences to Hariri's family in Beirut.

"I charge the Lebanese-Syrian police regime with the responsibility for Hariri's death," he said.

Since it helped broker the end of the war, Syria has maintained a pervasive grip on Lebanon through its intelligence services, political allies and economic interests.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in the northern Sunni port city of Tripoli and hundreds demonstrated in Hariri's hometown of Sidon, shouting slogans blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his death, witnesses said.

A crowd of mourners assaulted Syrian workers with sticks and stones near Hariri's brother's house in Sidon, injuring five of them. A Syrian lorry was set on fire in north Lebanon.

Exiled former general Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian and long-time foe of Syria, said Damascus was indirectly, if not directly, responsible for the Hariri's killing.

"There are many Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in Beirut and they control everything in the country. I don't think that if they were taking care of Hariri he would be attacked so easily," Aoun told Reuters by telephone.


Scobey was called back to Washington to "talk about these concerns and to talk about where we go from here with Syria," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

President Bush is considering imposing new sanctions against Damascus because of its refusal to withdraw its 14,000 troops from Lebanon and their belief it lets Palestinian militants and Iraqi insurgents to operate on Syrian soil, officials said.

The White House also said it was consulting with the U.N. Security Council -- to meet later on Tuesday -- about taking punitive measures against those responsible for the killing.

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut announced that Assistant Secretary of State William Burns will attend Hariri's funeral.

Shops and offices shut for three days of official mourning and the Lebanese army went on alert ahead of the funeral, set for Wednesday.

Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam was among those who filed into Hariri's palatial home to pay condolences.

"This crime targeted the Lebanese dream, Lebanese security and Lebanese peace," said Khaddam, a friend of Hariri.

Hariri, 60, who masterminded postwar reconstruction, was killed along with 14 others when a car bomb ripped through his motorcade in Beirut's seafront luxury hotel district. About 135 people were wounded in the biggest explosion since the war.

Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh said a suicide car bomber might have carried out the attack, which gouged a crater in the middle of the road as Hariri's convoy drove by.

"It could have been that someone was driving the car and it might have a been a suicide (attacker) who blew himself up," he told a news conference, citing initial investigations.

Franjieh said Lebanon would not agree to an international investigation into the killing as demanded by France.

A previously unknown Islamist group said on Monday it had carried out a suicide attack against Hariri, who also holds Saudi citizenship, because he supported the Saudi royal family.

Hariri resigned as prime minister in October after falling out with Syria over its role in extending the term of his political rival, President Emile Lahoud.

He then joined opposition leaders in calling for Syria to withdraw its troops and stop interfering in Lebanese affairs, as demanded by the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon set new conditions for any negotiations with Syria on Tuesday, saying Damascus must first withdraw troops from Lebanon in line with the resolution.

Israel had previously said only that Syria had to stop supporting Palestinian militant groups with offices in Damascus before there could be any resumption of talks, which foundered in 2000.

Syria, seeking the return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, has recently called for new negotiations.

"Syria must expel the terrorist organizations' headquarters from their territory," Sharon told a news conference in Jerusalem.

Political tension had already been building in Lebanon as campaigning began for parliamentary elections in May which were widely seen as a test of Syria's influence.

But Franjieh said "the elections will take place on schedule."

Syrian state media said Syria had embraced Hariri "as one of its own sons" and condemned his killing.

"Matters should be put on the right track -- the real target of the assassination of Hariri is Lebanon and its national unity and civil peace," al-Thawra newspaper said.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror

1 posted on 02/15/2005 1:11:46 PM PST by Indy Pendance
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To: Indy Pendance

These crazy middle-eastern baskets arent happy unless they are blowing up somebody, It doesnt seem to matter who it is they just like making people go boom.

2 posted on 02/15/2005 1:17:06 PM PST by sgtbono2002
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To: Indy Pendance

You know, this is interesting because the terrorism is spreading to all middle east countries. For a while, they call them freedom fighters, etc. These countries birthed terrorists and terrorism and now they are starting to see that they are being destroyed by the same people the supported.

In most cases, all we have to do here in the United States is to secure our country and borders in interests overseas, and let these other countries destroy each other.

Sounds simple enough.

3 posted on 02/15/2005 1:23:59 PM PST by atruelady
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To: atruelady

I agree.

4 posted on 02/15/2005 2:15:07 PM PST by mammer
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To: Indy Pendance

I have never understood why Syria has never ever been touched. They are like the USSR in using other lands and people to perform their dirty evil deeds.

5 posted on 02/15/2005 2:16:42 PM PST by Just mythoughts
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To: atruelady

Good analysis. I agree.

6 posted on 02/15/2005 2:31:31 PM PST by Indy Pendance
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