Former Lebanon president: Syria trying to topple gov't

Amin Gemayel, father of assassinated minister Pierre Gemayel, says Syria backing Hizbullah protests in order to avoid Hariri tribunal.

amin gemayel crying 298. (photo credit: AP)
amin gemayel crying 298.
(photo credit: AP)
A former president of Lebanon accused Syria of plotting a coup d'etat against his country's democratically elected government. Amin Gemayel, whose son Pierre, the country's industry minister, was assassinated in November, said he does not know who was responsible for the killing. But in an interview broadcast on CNN Sunday, he said he believed Syria was behind recent Hizbullah-led demonstrations aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minster Fuad Saniora. Syria, he said, wants to prevent the government from endorsing an international tribunal to prosecute the suspected killers of its former prime minister Rafik Hariri. "This coup d'etat is to block the constitution endorse the international tribunal," said Gemayel, who is in Washington meeting this week with top officials, including US President George W. Bush. "Because Syria is really afraid, because it's the first suspect in the endorsed crimes." Hizbullah has staged two months of demonstrations and sit-ins by the pro-Syrian opposition in a bid to oust the Lebanese government. The government has reached a draft agreement with the United Nations calling for the creation of the tribunal into Hariri's death, but has not yet given its final approval. Hariri was killed with 22 others in a suicide truck bombing in Beirut in February 2005. The assassination sparked huge protests against Syria, which was widely seen as culpable. Syria denied involvement, but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence. A UN investigation into the assassination is still under way. The first UN chief investigator, Germany's Detlev Mehlis, said the killing's complexity suggested the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services played a role in Hariri's assassination. Amin Gemayel said he believed the assassinations of Hariri and of his son were connected. He called on Syria to cooperate with investigators. "The only way for Syria to prove its innocence is to help within the international committee and to form the international tribunal," he said.