Amin Gemayel: Syria likely behind hit

Lebanese President Lahoud cancels Independence Day celebrations.

emile lahoud 298 88ap (photo credit: AP)
emile lahoud 298 88ap
(photo credit: AP)
Former Lebanese president Amin Gemayel told a French television station Wednesday that Syria was likely behind the assassination of his son, Pierre. The murder of his 34-year-old son, who was Lebanon's Industry Minister, corresponds to "the habitual behaviour" of the regime in Damascus, Gemayel told LCI television. "We do not yet have the proof or irrefutable presumptions, but many fingers point at Syria, which has precedents," he noted. "We have proof that it was Syria that had my brother, former president (Bashir) Gemayel, killed in 1982, and we are prepared to believe that it is the habitual behaviour of Syria to settle its accounts with Lebanon by ... assassination." Amin Gemayel urged his supporters to maintain order and exercise restraint.
  • Analysis: Will Gemayel hit lead to civil war? Schools and shops were closed and traffic was light in Beirut as Gemayel's coffin, draped in the flag of his Phalange Party, was driven to the family's home in Bikfaya for mourning ceremonies before the funeral scheduled for Thursday. A small crowd of mourners, some carrying Lebanese flags, walked slowly behind the vehicle carrying the coffin. The Lebanese army deployed roadblocks in several districts of Beirut after a number of rioting incidents occurred overnight as Christians expressed their anger by burning tires and smashing car windows. Gemayel, minister of industry and scion of a prominent political family, was killed Tuesday when two cars blocked his vehicle at an intersection in the suburbs of Beirut and an assassin shot him numerous times through a side window of his car. The United States condemned the slaying as an act of terrorism. President George W. Bush accused Syria and Iran of seeking to undermine the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, though he stopped short of blaming them for the 34-year-old Gemayel's slaying. Syria too condemned the assassination and denied any role in it. Lebanese President Emile Lahoud went on national TV late Tuesday to announce that Wednesday's Independence Day celebrations had been canceled. "I was supposed to deliver today the independence speech but we were surprised by this disaster which hit all the Lebanese," Lahoud said, adding that the murder was part of a "conspiracy" that began with the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. "Therefore, I tell the Lebanese that today is the time for them to unite or else all of Lebanon will lose," Lahoud said. He offered condolences to Gemayel's father, former President Amin Gemayel, a political opponent of Lahoud. "We will do the impossible to uncover the criminals because they are against all the Lebanese," Lahoud said. The UN Security Council unequivocally condemned Tuesday's assassination of a prominent anti-Syrian Cabinet member and approved a tribunal to prosecute the suspected killers of another Lebanese politician - former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. US Ambassador John Bolton said the killing of Christian politician Pierre Gemayel raised the possibility of Syrian involvement. He said the United States will seek to add Gemayel's murder to the list of those whose alleged killers would be prosecuted by the tribunal. It now includes Hariri and 14 other Lebanese who died at the hands of assassins or their bombs. The Security Council expressed grave concern at the possible impact of Gemayel's assassination on efforts "to solidify democracy" in the country and condemned "any attempt to destabilize Lebanon through political assassination or other terrorist acts." In a statement adopted by consensus and read by the council president, members called Gemayel "a patriot who was a symbol of freedom and of the political independence of Lebanon."