Lebanon Revives "Cedar Revolution" and Security Council Supports the Independence Legitimate Government

Lebanon Bids Gemayel Farewell as Father Announces 'Countdown' for New President

23 Nov 2006

Hundreds of thousands of mourners Thursday bid slain Christian politician Pierre Gemayel farewell as his father announced that the "countdown for the election of a new president has started." "Independence can only be achieved through the election of new president," said former President Amine Gemayel, father of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel who was gunned down along with a bodyguard Tuesday. The young politician was the sixth outspoken opponent of Syria to be assassinated in the past two years.

Anti-Syrian leaders have been calling for the resignation of Syrian protégé President Emile Lahoud whose mandate was extended for three years through a controversial Syrian-inspired constitutional amendment in 2004.

Prominent Lebanese leaders and ambassadors packed the St. George Cathedral as the casket was placed on the altar along with the coffin of his bodyguard, Samir al-Shartouni.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and Arab League chief Amr Mussa were among the dignitaries attending the 1:00 p.m. funeral service in downtown Beirut.

Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hizbullah ally, surprised the mourners by showing up unexpectedly at the funeral.

In a message read at the funeral, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the "unspeakable" assassination of Gemayel.

"We are all very moved by this unspeakable act," he said in the message read by a Jesuit priest at the cathedral where Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, head of the Maronite church to which Gemayel belonged, led the service in a rare move.

"I hope that all Lebanese remain united in these circumstances and that they renew their determination to rebuild an autonomous Lebanon... where all communities are ensured active participation," he said.

In his sermon, Sfeir said that the "spate of crimes continues in order to prevent Lebanon from achieving stability."

Gemayel's casket, wrapped in flags of the Phalange party and Lebanon, was taken to Bikfaya for burial in the family graveyard at the end of the funeral.

From the family home in Bikfaya, through the village's main street to the entrance of the town, Gemayel's coffin was carried on shoulders by relatives and supporters before being placed in a cortege and driven to the Phalange party headquarters in Saifi from where it made the final trek to the cathedral.

Amid a sea of red and white flags in a show of patriotism for the funeral, hundreds of thousands assembled at the nearby Martyrs Square in a show of force against opponents led by Hizbullah and their Syrian backers.

Young men stamped on Lahoud portraits and his Syrian and Iranian counterparts, the principal backers of Hizbullah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah.

"Nasrallah, come and see who is the majority" in Lebanon, chanted the crowd.

"We want only the army to bear weapons," the mourners chanted, referring to Hizbullah's persistent refusal to lay down its weapons in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions following the devastating summer war with Israel.

Others brandished anti-Syrian posters. One poster read "Get Bashar's agent out of Baabda," a reference to Lahoud. Another placard read: "Caesar of Baabda, Get Lost!" Baabda is the presidential headquarters.

Schools, shops and other businesses across Lebanon have been asked to remain closed Thursday as a mark of respect.

On the eve of the funeral, convoys of cars covered with portraits of Gemayel and Hariri criss-crossed the streets of Beirut playing patriotic music.

Security around the capital has been stepped up since the minister's murder, with extra roadblocks around the presidential palace and on the main highway to Damascus.

On Thursday Lebanese troops, backed by armored vehicles, were out in force across Beirut for the funeral.

Army command sources told the pro-Syrian Al-Akhbar newspaper that the military "remains neutral" to the political disputes in Lebanon and will continue to protect all state institutions, including the presidential palace.

Before Gemayel's slaying, Hizbullah had threatened to hold its own mass protests in an attempt to bring down Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government.

Hizbullah officials said Wednesday the group would take no action in the coming days to allow emotions to cool.

Many feared Thursday's demonstration could be the first in a round of shows that could bring the political standoff into the volatile streets.

Gemayel's assassination introduced new tensions into the already dangerous power struggle in Lebanon. The polarization has become as sharp and exposed as it has been since the end of the 1975-90 civil war between Muslims and Christians.

The anti-Damascus politicians who run the government were quick to point the finger at Syria and called for a huge show of public determination to be rid of the meddling of its larger neighbor.

The leader of the anti-Syrian majority in parliament, Saad Hariri, who himself lost his father to an assassin's bomb last year, called on people from across the nation to attend the Beirut funeral in a "show of support for freedom and independence".

Christian opposition leader and Hizbullah ally General Michel Aoun called on all Lebanese to attend the funeral, but indicated he would not be there himself.

Aoun told the private television channel NBN Wednesday he regretted that the Gemayel family did not allow him to present his condolences. "They told me this was not the time. I regret that," he said.

Damascus stressed that the timing of Gemayel's murder, on the day the United Nations endorsed a blueprint for a tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 murder of Hariri, was designed to cause it maximum damage.

The governing anti-Syrian camp in Beirut, faced with a growing challenge from Hizbullah since its war with Israel, is the only party which stands to gain from the minister's assassination, the official press in Damascus argued.

Hizbullah and other the pro-Syrian Amal movement of Speaker Nabih Berri pulled their ministers out of the cabinet earlier this month after all-party talks failed to reach agreement on a government of national unity and has threatened a campaign of street protests to achieve their goal.

Statement by the President of the Security Council

21 November 2006

At the 5569th meeting of the Security Council, held on 21 November 2006, in connection with the Council’s consideration of the item entitled “The situation in the Middle East”, the President of the Security Council made the following statement on behalf of the Council:

“The Security Council unequivocally condemns the assassination in Beirut on 21 November 2006 of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, a patriot who was a symbol of freedom and of the political independence of Lebanon. The Security Council expresses its deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of the victim and to the people and Government of Lebanon.

“The Security Council condemns any attempt to destabilize Lebanon through political assassination or other terrorist acts. The Security Council is gravely concerned by this assassination and its possible impact on ongoing efforts by the Government and people of Lebanon to solidify democracy, extend the authority of the Lebanese Government throughout its territory and complete the reconstruction process.

“The Security Council calls upon all parties in Lebanon and the region to show restraint and a sense of responsibility with a view to preventing any further deterioration of the situation in Lebanon. The Security Council urges all States, in accordance with its resolutions 1373 (2001), 1566 (2004) and 1624 (2005), to cooperate fully in the fight against terrorism.

“The Security Council welcomes the determination and commitment of the Government of Lebanon to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of this and other assassinations and underlines its determination to support the Government of Lebanon in its efforts to this end.

“The Security Council reaffirms its previous calls upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Security Council for the full implementation of all relevant resolutions concerning the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, in particular resolutions 1559 (2004), 1595 (2005), 1664 (2006), 1680 (2006) and
1701 (2006).

“The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to continue to follow closely and report regularly to the Council on the situation in Lebanon. The Security Council underlines its readiness to continue to act in support of the legitimate and democratically elected Government of Lebanon.”

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