TOPICS > Politics

Lebanon Struggles to Maintain Stability After Assassination

November 22, 2006 at 6:15 PM EDT

RAY SUAREZ: Another murder, and new warnings of political chaos in Lebanon. Yesterday’s assassination victim was cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel, a major Christian figure in Lebanon’s divided government and a critic of Syria.

The prime minister, Fuad Siniora, insisted this killing would not destroy his government or country, saying, “We will not allow assassins to control Lebanon’s destiny or its people’s futures.”

Gemayel’s assassination, which followed the resignations of six pro-Syrian cabinet members last week, means the government will collapse if one more cabinet member leaves or dies.

Many Lebanese were ready to blame Syria for the Gemayel assassination. He was the fifth anti-Syrian public figure to be killed in less than two years, although Syria has denied any role in the murders.

BASHAR JA’AFARI, Syrian Ambassador to the U.N.: Syria has nothing to do with this. Syria is affected directly or indirectly from such crimes, horrible crimes committed and perpetrated on the Lebanese scene. We have no interests whatsoever to the national reconciliation process in Lebanon.

RAY SUAREZ: But top Syrian security officials, including the brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad, have been implicated in an ongoing U.N. investigation of the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The six pro-Syrian cabinet members left the Lebanese government in an effort to prevent approval of a U.N. tribunal to pursue Hariri’s killers.

The Lebanese people’s response to Hariri’s killing — millions taking to the streets in what was called the Cedar Revolution — led to the end of Syria’s 29-year military occupation of Lebanon and the appointment of a government, including anti- and pro-Syrian factions, including representatives of the Hezbollah guerrilla movement.

And just as that government was trying to get on its feet, Lebanon again became a battleground for foreign forces, as Israel battled Hezbollah last summer. Large portions of the country were left in ruins; about a thousand people were killed and thousands more left homeless.