The United States observed the third anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by doubling its funding for the U.N.-organized tribunal that will investigate his death. President Bush, in a statement on Hariri, said Syria, Iran and their allies must end interference in Lebanese politics. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The Hariri anniversary was marked by a huge gathering of supporters of Lebanon's moderate government in Beirut, and expressions in Washington of support for Lebanese sovereignty and for the tribunal that will try those responsible for the car bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others.
In a written statement, President Bush lamented the deaths of Hariri and other Lebanese political figures subsequently killed by those who, he said, seek to use violence and intimidation to de-rail progress toward a free and independent Lebanon.
Mr. Bush demanded that Syria, Iran and their allies end efforts to undermine Lebanon's legitimate government, and urged the world community to re-double support for the tribunal, which U.N. officials hope to have up and running in a matter of weeks.
In a separate announcement, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States will double - to $14 million - its contribution to the Hariri tribunal's first-year budget. State Department Spokesman, Sean McCormack, said it is a way to honor the sacrifice of Hariri and the other slain Lebanese democracy asdvocates:
"It's a day in which we should reflect upon all the sacrifices the Lebanese people have made on behalf of building Lebanese democracy, and reinforcing Lebanese sovereignty, and reinforcing the idea that Lebanon should be able to direct its own affairs free from outside and foreign interference," said Sean McCormack. "Sadly that day has not yet fully arrived for the Lebanese people."
McCormack noted the what he said was the stark juxtaposition between the Hariri rally, and the mass tribute elsewhere in Beirut for Hezbollah commander and reputed terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, killed in a car-bomb attack in Damascus Wednesday.
Despite Israeli denials of involvement, Hezbollah blames the Jewish state for the Mughniyeh killing and its leader Hassan Nazrallah told the Beirut funeral event his group is ready for open war with Israel.
McCormack said that given Hezbollah's proven record of terrorism, the Nazrallah statements should be of concern and alarm to the entire world.
The Lebanese developments were among issues in a late Thursday meeting here between Secretary Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who was in Washington for a memorial event for the late House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos.
An official with Livni said Israel knows how to deal with threats and will not panic when, as he put it, a terrorist like Nazrallah has something to say.
The official said Rice and Livni also discussed the situation in Gaza, the peace dialogue between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and efforts for a third U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran over its nuclear program.