World condemns assassination of anti-Syrian Lebanese politician; opposition calls for the president to resign

The situation in Lebanon following smashing victory of anti-Syrian opposition in parliamentary elections and the assassination of anti-Syrian critic and former Communist Party leader George Hawi becomes explosive.

The Lebanese opposition stepped up calls for pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud to resign Wednesday and called for a strike during funeral of Hawi, reports AP. George Hawi, 67, was killed by explosives placed under his car seat that detonated as he was being driven in Beirut on Tuesday.

Opposition figures blamed the assassination on Syrian agents and their allies in the Lebanese security services as they did the June 2 slaying of anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir and the Feb. 14 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hariri's assassination triggered street protests and international anger that forced a Syrian troop pullout in April and increased calls on the president to step down.

Anti-Syrian opposition believes, president Lahoud is the only person to blame as he is the main pro-Syrian holdover and highest ranking politician responsible for the security system still in place. Opposition members said Hawi's assassination was part of a "terrorist" sequence of events that began last September with the extension of Lahoud's six-year presidential mandate by another three years.

"This series of events, whose first chapter began by extending the mandate of the president, the real president of the security and intelligence regime, will not end before all the effects of the extension are removed," the opposition said in a statement after meeting.

They called for "the highest possible turnout" for Hawi's funeral on Friday, and a general strike that day.

Opposition leader Walid Jumblatt also called for Lahoud's removal as president and a purge of security agencies.

President Lahoud has condemned the killing and distanced himself from the security services, saying he is not directly responsible for them as the opposition has claimed. At the same time Lahoud Tuesday accepted the resignation of the caretaker cabinet led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati and asked it to continue running day-to-day affairs of the country until a new government is formed.

Hawi's stepson Rafi Madoyan suggested Wednesday that his death may be linked to a recent meeting between Hawi and a top U.N. investigator in the Hariri murder, during which Hawi reportedly volunteered information that could help the investigation.

Meanwhile, politicians in the world condemned the assasssination of Hawi. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has condemned the murder, and called for unity and stability in that country, UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Tuesday, reports Xinhuanet. The White House also condemned the assassination and demanded afull probe into it.

"We strongly condemn the assassination", said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "There needs to be a full investigation into the assassination. People who are responsible must be brought to justice."

On the photo: Lebanese President Emile Lahoud

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