- The Washington Times - Monday, December 12, 2005

BEIRUT — A roadside bomb killed a leading anti-Syrian lawmaker and journalist yesterday just as the latest report on the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was delivered to the United Nations.

Gibran Tueni, a leading voice in the “Cedar Revolution” that pushed Syria out of Lebanon in the aftermath of Mr. Hariri’s death, had taken refuge in France from a wave of bombs that have targeted the anti-Syrian opposition this year.

The Bush administration, which led the international push to drive Syrian forces from Lebanon, condemned the attack.

Mr. Tueni’s killing “is another act of terrorism aimed at trying to subjugate Lebanon to Syrian domination,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters traveling with the president in Philadelphia.

U.S. officials said they had no proof that the attack was ordered by Damascus.

The Lebanese political establishment has been subject to 14 bombings since the assassination of Mr. Hariri, some targeting journalists and politicians, others designed to terrify the mostly Christian population of East Beirut, a hotbed of anti-Syrian politics.

Mr. Tueni, who published the daily An-Nahar, had returned to Lebanon from France on Sunday. Early yesterday, a bomb sent his armored sport utility vehicle off the side of an embankment and into a row of cars 100 yards below.

In a letter to the Reuters news agency, a previously unknown group calling itself the “Strugglers for Unity and Freedom in al-Sham” took credit for the attack, which also killed Mr. Tueni’s driver and bodyguard.

Al-Sham is Arabic for the eastern Mediterranean region that includes Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian areas.

“We have broken the pen of Gibran Tueni and gagged his mouth forever,” the group said.

The assassination puts fresh pressure on President Emile Lahoud, widely seen as a tool of the Syrian regime that appointed him.

As crowds gathered in the predominantly Christian Ashrafiyah neighborhood, some protesters flew the once-banned flags of the Lebanese Forces and Phalangist militias, which fought Muslim and Palestinian groups in the 1975-1990 civil war that first led Syria to occupy its tiny neighbor.

“Lahoud must go, Lahoud must go,” chanted some teenagers displaying the wooden crucifixes of the right-wing Phalangist movement.

But momentum to remove the deeply unpopular president stalled earlier this year as Lebanon’s Christian political parties — which control the presidency in the complicated sectarian system — failed to agree on how to remove him. Many anti-Lahoud Christians have refused to support impeachment out of fear that it could weaken the office.

Syria also condemned yesterday’s attack, which its official Syrian Arab News Agency said was timed to implicate Damascus.

“Syria denounces this crime that claimed the lives of Lebanese, irrespective of their political stances,” said Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhl-Allah, suggesting that archenemy Israel might have played a role.

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