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International Condemnation Follows Assassination of Lebanese Minister


Lebanese Cabinet Minister and Christian leader Pierre Gemayel was assassinated in a Beirut suburb Tuesday -- an act that has been condemned by the international community. Gemayel is the latest in a number of anti-Syrian politicians who have been assassinated in Lebanon over the past two years.

Witnesses say gunmen rammed their car into Gemayel's vehicle in a Christian neighborhood of Beirut, and then sprayed bullets into the car. The 34-year-old minister was mortally wounded and died later in a hospital.

Gemayel, the minister of industry, came from a prominent Lebanese family that includes his father, former President Amin Gemayel. The slain minister was part of the anti-Syrian bloc in parliament, led by Saad Hariri -- whose father was assassinated in 2005.

When Hariri announced Gemayel's death to his colleagues, there was widespread dismay and defiance. Many blame Syria for being behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hariri, who strongly opposed Syria's occupation of Lebanon, was killed in a massive car bomb explosion in February 2005. Gemayel is the fifth anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated in the past two years -- and his murder prompted strong international condemnation.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "We condemn this murder utterly. It is completely without any justification at all. We need to do everything we can, particularly at this moment, to protect democracy in Lebanon. And it underlines once again, the absolute and urgent need for a strategy for the whole of the Middle East that supports those who favor democracy."

President Bush, who spoke in Hawaii, also condemned the killing -- and accused Syria and Iran of fomenting instability in Lebanon. "We support the Lebanese people's desire to live in peace, and we support their efforts to defend their democracy against attempts by Syria, Iran and allies to foment instability and violence in that important country."

Mr. Bush went on to call on the U.N. Security Council to move quickly to set up a tribunal to try suspects in last year's assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri.

In Lebanon, meanwhile, anger and panic swept through Beirut following Pierre Gemayel's assassination. Protestors set fires on city streets as tensions rose between opponents of Syria and its allies -- raising fears of a confrontation between the rival political camps.

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