Senior UN official appeals to Lebanese leaders for calm after minister’s murder

Senior UN official appeals to Lebanese leaders for calm after minister’s murder

Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Personal Representative for Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, met with the country’s senior leaders today to call for calm following the assassination of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.

“His message to all has been clear: this is not the time for confrontation; it is the time to look for solutions to the very difficult situation the country is now facing,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York. “Moreover, we must not allow the perpetrators of this crime to achieve their goal of creating disunity and civil strife in Lebanon.”

In New York, Mr. Annan voiced concern about the recent developments and said he is in touch with the Lebanese leadership. “I am extremely worried about the situation in Lebanon, and I did speak to the Prime Minister,” he said, adding that he would be meeting Lebanese Culture Minister Tarek Mitri this evening.

“I have called leaders in the region, including Syria and Iran, to work with the parties to ensure that there is unity and stability in Lebanon, and to encourage patience on all sides,” the Secretary-General told reporters.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, one of the leaders Mr. Pedersen met with today, has asked for technical assistance in investigating Mr. Gemayel’s murder from the independent UN commission that is already probing last year’s assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Mr. Annan has forwarded the request to the Security Council.

As well as meeting with leaders from a range of political parties, Mr. Pedersen paid his condolences to former President Amine Gemayel, the murdered minister’s father, and other family members.

The Security Council, which yesterday also condemned Mr. Gemayel’s assassination and urged all parties in Lebanon and the wider region to show restraint and avoid further destabilizing the country, has given its support for a joint international-Lebanese tribunal to try the as yet unidentified killers of Mr. Hariri.

It asked Mr. Annan to proceed, together with the Lebanese Government in conformity with its constitution, with the final steps for an agreement on the tribunal.

In his press comments today, the Secretary-General voiced hope that the Government would be able to react quickly on the issue “so that we can move on to the next stage.”

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 that assassination was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the killing.