November 21st, 2006 14:37 EST
Annan and Security Council condemn assassination of Lebanese Government minister
Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council expressed shock and condemnation today at the assassination of Lebanon’s Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, calling for restraint from all sides and urging national unity.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Annan decried the murder of Mr. Gemayel, “who believed strongly in an independent, democratic and united Lebanon,” and offered his deepest sympathies to the late minister’s family and to the Lebanese Government.
Mr. Gemayel died after being shot in his car while travelling through the capital, Beirut.
Mr. Annan said in his statement that “such acts of terrorism undermine Lebanon’s stability, are unacceptable and have no place in a democratic and open society,” adding that “the perpetrators and instigators of today’s attack must be brought to justice to ensure an end to impunity.”
In a presidential statement read out by Ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales of Peru, which holds the rotating presidency for November, Council members urged all parties in Lebanon and the wider region to “show restraint and a sense of responsibility” to avoid further destabilizing the country.
The Council also voiced grave concern about the efforts of the Lebanese Government and people to solidify democracy in the wake of the assassination, the latest in a series of high-profile killings in the country over the past two years.
The murder of Mr. Gemayel took place on the same day that the Council sent a letter to Mr. Annan offering its backing to the establishment of a special tribunal to deal with those alleged responsible for the assassination of then prime minister Rafik Hariri in February last year.
The Council set up the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) in April 2005 after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own investigation into the Hariri assassination was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the killing. Its mandate runs until next June.
Serge Brammertz, the head of the IIIC, told the Council in September that evidence obtained so far suggests that a young, male suicide bomber, probably non-Lebanese, detonated up to 1,800 kilograms of explosives inside a van to assassinate Mr. Hariri. The bombing in Beirut also killed 22 others.
The IIIC has been tasked with probing 14 other bombings that have occurred in Lebanon since October 2004, and Mr. Brammertz said evidence points towards his earlier conclusion that many of them were connected.