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Lebanon - World leaders outraged at Tueni killing

U.S. SAYS murder 'aimed at MAINTAINING syrian INFLUENCE IN LEBANON'

The international community reacted with outrage on Monday to the news that Beirut MP Gibran Tueni had been killed by a roadside car bomb attack outside of Beirut. The United States, France, Germany, Russia, the European Union, the United Nations and Syria all had harsh words for those behind Lebanon's latest assassination.

The White House called Tueni's murder an "act of terrorism" aimed at maintaining Syrian influence in Lebanon.

In a statement, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said "We strongly condemn the assassination of Mr. Tueni. His murder is another act of terrorism aimed at trying to subjugate Lebanon to Syrian domination."

UN chief Kofi Annan condemned "the cold-blooded murder," adding that "the perpetrators and instigators of today's and other attacks must be brought to justice to ensure an end to impunity," according to a statement.

French President Jacques Chirac was reported to have written a letter to Siham Tueni, Gibran's widow, to express his outrage at the attack.

"France condemns in the strongest terms this crime, which arouses horror and indignation," Chirac wrote.

The French president assured Siham that "Lebanon is not alone" and that "the death of Gibran Tueni is the occasion for us to redouble our efforts for the resolutions of the Security Council to be fully carried out."

Tueni's death came one day after the MP returned to Lebanon from France, where he had taken refuge after numerous reports that his name was on several hit lists.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels that "Confronted by those who are trying to destabilize Lebanon, I reiterate the solidarity and the friendship of France for the Lebanese people."

U.S. Ambassador to Beirut Jeffrey Feltman had earlier condemned the assassination as the latest in a series of attacks with "similar profiles" and which "pushed for similar goals," in comments following a meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh.

A previous statement from the U.S. Embassy had denounced in the strongest terms what it called the "barbaric attack".

"With this heinous act, the forces of oppression and tyranny have taken from the Lebanese people one of their greatest champions for liberty and freedom and have killed a courageous advocate of Lebanese independence and sovereignty," it said.

The statement also expressed support for Lebanon: "The United States of America stands firmly with the Lebanese people in repudiating such extreme acts of terror and violence."

In Brussels, the European Union condemned what it called the "cowardly killing" of Tueni in a crude act of political violence.

"The EU is deeply concerned at this latest in a series of attacks against supporters of Lebanese democracy," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

"Those who seek to destabilize Lebanon and the region through such cowardly attacks will not succeed. I reaffirm the importance of bringing the perpetrators of this and all the preceding attacks to justice," he added. "We will be consulting urgently with European partners, and in the Security Council, on the implications of this criminal act."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana added his own condemnation.

"This year has seen too many people targeted in a cowardly way, people who, like Tueni, were deeply committed to the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon, as well as to the possibility of expressing themselves freely there," he said.

The Delegation of the European Commission to Lebanon described Tueni as a man who represented "the spirit of freedom, the freedom of March 14."

In a statement, the commission said "those who assassinated this representative of the people wanted once more to assassinate the spirit of freedom."

Similar comments were heard from German and Russian officials.

"We condemn this evil crime that ... creates a new link in a series of anonymous terrorist acts," said Mikhail Kamynin, spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, in a written statement.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "Today's attack appears to be a further attempt to sabotage the process underway leading to an independent, sovereign and democratic Lebanon. Those responsible must be countered with determination."

Damascus also condemned Tueni's assassination. The Syrian Parliament released a statement that "firmly denounces the terrorist acts which target Lebanon's stability and civil peace," according to the country's official SANA news agency.

"Those who are behind these criminal acts and who execute them are the enemies of Lebanon," it added.

The International Press Institute "strongly condemned" the massive car bomb attack on Tueni's Range Rover.

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) described the assassination as "outrageous" and "sorrowful." Tueni was the Middle East Affairs board member at WAN.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of Mr. Tueni, an outstanding, brave and determined publisher and journalist," the association said. It called on the Lebanese government to do everything possible to ensure Tueni's killers are "swiftly" brought to justice.

International rights group Amnesty International also rebuked the assassination and called upon Lebanese authorities to investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice, in line with international standards. Amnesty also urged all political groups to respect Lebanon's freedom of expression and to refrain from acts of violence against civilians.

Beirut,12 20 2005
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