Bush blasts Lebanon bombing, tells Syria, Iran to butt out

Investigators try to determine if killing of top official tied to attacks against anti-Syrian politicians.

Lebanon bomb 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Lebanon bomb 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
US President George W. Bush bemoaned the latest assassination of a Lebanese official and told Syria and Iran to stop meddling in its neighbor's affairs. Investigators tried to determine if the killing was tied to attacks against anti-Syrian politicians. Iran, which supports the Syrian-based opposition in a power struggle with Beirut's Western-allied government, came under criticism along with Syria for working to undermine Lebanese institutions. "We demand that Syria, Iran and their allies end their interference in and obstruction of Lebanon's political process," the president said in a statement Saturday. Syria has been blamed for the car bomb Friday that killed Capt. Wissam Eid, whose work included investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Damascus has denied any role. Bush did not directly blame Syria. The administration's delayed reaction to the bombing reflected sensitivity over the Syrian role in Bush's efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians before he leaves office. He said the bombing was the latest in a series of attacks targeting those working to secure independence and sovereignty in Lebanon. "We will not falter in our support for the democratically elected Lebanese government," Bush said. "We renew our call for the immediate selection of a new president in accordance with Lebanon's constitution." The US-Syria relationship warmed when Syria agreed to attend Bush's recent Middle East conference in Annapolis, Maryland - after the US added the Golan Heights to the agenda. Syria demands the full return of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau seized by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, and Syria's participation in the conference was widely seen as an attempt to gain favor with Washington. Bush said he appreciated UN efforts on a special tribunal for Lebanon that, the president said, "will hold accountable those who are responsible for this systematic campaign of murder and intimidation." "I urge Lebanon's friends and allies to commit immediately the remaining funds required for the tribunal to commence its work," Bush said. Investigators are trying to determine if Eid's killing was part of a series of attacks that have targeted leading anti-Syrian politicians in the past three years. The car bombing also killed his bodyguard and three passers-by and wounded 37 people, police said. Lebanon, divided along pro- and anti-Syrian lines, is in a prolonged political stalemate that has left the country without a president since Nov. 23 because the two camps cannot agree on a candidate or the makeup of a future government.