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Assassination Prompts Renewed Calls for International Tribunal for Lebanon

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says the killing of Lebanese minister Pierre Gemayel underscores the need for establishing an international tribunal for Lebanon.

The assassination of Pierre Gemayel overshadowed a previously scheduled Security Council meeting on the Middle East.

It also gave new urgency to negotiations that have been dragging on for days on how to endorse a special tribunal to try suspects in the February 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

As he entered the Council chamber, Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton called Pierre Gemayel's murder a "terrorist assassination."

He said it highlights the need for immediate action to create an international tribunal for Lebanon.

"We have to support the democratic forces in Lebanon against this politically motivated assassination," he said. "This is not a way to change a government. It shows why we need to establish a tribunal as soon as possible."

Bolton bristled at a reporter's suggestion that some Council members might favor postponing creation of the tribunal because of fears that trying suspects might fuel instability in the region.

He said, "How incredibly wrong that would be. How incredibly wrong that would be. Instability. They're killing people in Lebanon."

"They're assassinating political leaders. Not the time to seek justice? There may be those on the Security Council who say it. Let them step forward and say it," he added.

Bolton noted that investigators have developed links between the Hariri assassination and high-ranking Syrian officials, and suggested Syria could be involved in the Gemayel murder and other political killings in Lebanon.

Syria has staunchly denied involvement in all of the assassinations. Syria's U.N. ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, Tuesday noted that his government immediately issued a statement condemning Gemayel's killing.

He said, "Syria had nothing to do this. Syria is affected directly or indirectly by such horrible crimes committed and perpetrated on the Lebanese scene."

"We have been working very seriously with those who have good faith toward encouraging the Lebanese to sit together and find ... a solution to all their problems around the table of national reconciliation," he continued.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also condemned what he called the "cold-blooded-murder of Pierre Gemayel," as did a long list of diplomats around the Security Council table.

In a report to the Council last week, Mr. Annan called for agreement between the world body and the Lebanese government to create a special court outside Lebanon to try suspects in the Hariri assassination.

The tribunal would have more international than Lebanese judges and an international prosecutor. The secretary-general said having a non-Lebanese majority on the tribunal would help to ensure its independence.