Lebanon's parliament majority leader: Syria wants me dead

Saad Hariri claims there's a plot to assassinate him and his prime minister ahead of the presidential elections.

rafik said hariri 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
rafik said hariri 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The leader of Lebanon's parliamentary majority Saad Hariri claimed Tuesday there is a plot to assassinate him and the country's US-backed prime minister ahead of crucial presidential elections next month, and alleged that Syria was behind it. Hariri made the remarks to reporters after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a one-day visit to Egypt. "The assassination is not only of me but of (Lebanese) Prime Minister Fuad Saniora also," said Hariri, whose father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in a massive Beirut 2005 truck bombing that was widely blamed on Syria. Hariri did not elaborate on the plot but when asked about reports that Syrian officials were behind it, he said, "We have information about this (assassination plans) and it is correct." Syrian officials in Damascus could not be immediately reached for comment. Lebanon's anti-Syrian groups that dominate the government claim Damascus is behind a two-year killing spree that has claimed the lives of several anti-Syrian politicians and public figures. The latest was the Sept. 19 slaying of lawmaker Antoine Ghanem in a Beirut car bombing, a week before Parliament was to meet to start electing a new president. Syrian President Bashar Assad has rejected accusations that Syria orchestrated any of the killings. Hariri on Tuesday also accused Syria of trying to stall the election of a new Lebanese president by "influencing recent developments in Lebanon which have negatively affected reconciliation" between the country's rival factions. Hariri is in Cairo for talks with Mubarak and other officials amid Egyptian efforts to help resolve the Lebanese political deadlock over choosing a new president. Media here say Cairo is trying to convince rival Lebanese factions to accept Lebanese army commander Michael Suleiman as a compromise presidential candidate. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit visited Beirut last Thursday to offer his country's mediation. Last week, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the parliamentary session to elect a new president until Nov. 12, to give rival factions more time to find a compromise. The 128-member parliament, dominated by anti-Syrian legislators, failed to meet two times to choose a successor to pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, who steps down Nov. 24. There had been hopes that the presidential vote could break a 10-month political deadlock between Lebanon's US-backed government and pro-Syrian opposition factions led by the militant Hezbollah. Under Lebanon's complex sectarian-based political system in place since independence won in 1943, the president traditionally hails from the Maronite community which makes up the largest sect among minority Christians. The election of a consensus president is certain to ease the political power struggle taking place since last year. The parliament majority is hoping to put one of its own in the post, but the opposition has rejected a president they don't endorse. Over 15 declared or undeclared candidates are vying for the post. Many Lebanese fear divisions over the presidency could lead to the creation of two rival governments _ a grim prospect for Lebanon, which suffered through a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.