Merkel condemns 'cowardly' killing of Gemayel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday condemned the "cowardly" killing of Lebanese Cabinet minister and Christian leader Pierre Gemayel, and stressed her support for an "independent" Lebanon. Gemayel, a leading opponent of Syria, was gunned down on Tuesday, threatening to plunge the country into sectarian strife amid a standoff between the US-backed government and Syria's ally, Hizbullah. "We condemn this murder," Merkel said during a speech to the German parliament. "We want there to be an independent Lebanon and violence must be stopped with the greatest determination." "This was a cowardly murder that the whole international community must condemn," she said. US President George W. Bush has accused Syria and Iran of seeking to undermine the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, though he stopped short of blaming them for the industry minister's slaying.