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US urges UN action on Lebanon court after killing

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 21 (Reuters) US Ambassador John Bolton said today the assassination of a Lebanese Cabinet minister and vocal critic of Syria showed the need for quick agreement on creation of an international court for Lebanon.

Bolton also hinted at Syrian involvement in the killing of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel by gunmen who opened fire on his convoy near Beirut.

He pointed to a string of recent assassinations of anti-Syrian political figures in Lebanon following the February 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri after Hariri spoke out against Syria's domination of Lebanon.

''I think the facts need to be developed, but if you look at ... the evidence that links the Hariri assassination to the other political assassinations, I think people can draw their own conclusions,'' he said.

Bolton strongly disagreed when asked by a reporter whether council approval of the tribunal plan might feed instability in Lebanon, as some council members had argued.

''How incredibly wrong that would be,'' he said. ''Instability? They are killing people in Lebanon, they are 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,'' Bolton said.

During a closed-door Security Council meeting yesterday, Russia and Qatar had suggested it might be prudent to delay action on the tribunal due to Lebanon's political crisis, said diplomats present at that meeting.

Gemayel's shooting came as pro-Syrian Hezbollah and its allies prepared to take to the streets to try to topple the government of anti-Syrian Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

It also coincided with the UN Security Council's consideration of the plan for an international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of Hariri and the other recent assassinations, which UN investigators believe are related to Hariri's death.

Gemayel was among the members of the Lebanese Cabinet to have voted last week to approving the UN plan for the tribunal.

The vote came after the resignation of six opposition Cabinet members, throwing the Siniora government into crisis.

Lebanon's pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, had immediately protested that the vote by the Siniora government was illegitimate.


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