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Gen. Aoun Points Accusing Finger to Syria February 16, 2005/

Posted on 02/16/05    14:20 pm

Lebanon's most prominent exile, former army commander Gen. Michel Aoun, said in Paris Tuesday he suspects Syria was behind the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri.

The Syrians "totally control the country," Aoun said on France-Info radio. "Nothing moves without it being controlled by the Syrians."

Though Hariri publicly tried to avoid offending Damascus, his pro-Syrian opponents accused him of being the driving force behind the U.S.-backed U.N. Security Council resolution in September that demanded Syria withdraw its army from Lebanon.

Aoun said Hariri's killing was a challenge to the international community and he asked for help from the United Nations "because the Syrians can repeat their crimes."

"Each time that we wanted to get the Syrians out, there was a series of attacks that targeted Lebanese people who opposed Syria," Aoun said.

"We've got used over nearly 30 years, during the Syrian era, to a series of crimes which have never been solved," Aoun had told the Agence France Press Monday. "It's no coincidence."

He had also told the AFP that he supported a French government call for an international inquiry into the blast. "That could help us to avoid Lebanon becoming a slaughterhouse for politicians."

Parliamentary elections that had been expected in April and May should be delayed as long as Syria has not withdrawn, he added Tuesday.(AP-AFP)

Beirut, Updated 16 Feb 05, 09:51


Maronite Church Urges 'Restraint', End Lebanon Foreign Interference 16, 2005

 Posted on February 16, 2005 at 2:30 pm

Maronite bishops Wednesday called on Syria to stop interfering in Lebanon in a bid to save the country from civil war after former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination.

"An end to foreign interference and the tutelage imposed (on Lebanon) will ensure that the nation will not be drawn back into divisions and fighting," the bishops said in a statement, without explicitly naming Syria.


The head of the Maronite Church, Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, convened an emergency meeting to discuss the repercussions of Monday's bombing, in which Hariri and 14 other people were killed in Beirut.


"National unity is the key guarantee in these tragic circumstances," said the bishops, urging everyone to observe "maximum restraint".


Lebanon's anti-Syrian opposition leaders accused the Syrian and Lebanese regimes of being responsible for Hariri's violent death, which has stirred a harrowing reminder of the ravage caused by the civil war.


The Maronite bishops, who represent the largest Christian community in Lebanon, exhorted politicians to refrain from accusing one another of treason or foreign allegiances in the fall-out of the assassination.


Sfeir is a champion of Lebanese independence, who has frequently called for Beirut and Damascus to establish diplomatic relations so the countries can act as equals.(AFP)