BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Any Syrian attempt to destabilize Lebanon through assassinations or weapons shipments will trigger a response by the international community, French President Jacques Chirac warned Saturday.
In an interview with the pan-Arab Al Hayat newspaper, Chirac also reminded Damascus that it should fully cooperate with an international probe into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
“Syria must understand that any act that encroaches upon the stability of Lebanon, be it through the shipment of weapons or assassinations, is an act that contradicts with its standing in the international community and will trigger a response from the international community,” he said.
Chirac made the comments ahead of a three-day visit, beginning Saturday, to Saudi Arabia, which has also pressured Syria to cooperate in the Hariri probe.
Many Lebanese blame Syria for Hariri’s assassination in a truck bombing last year and for a series of mysterious bombings that has targeted Lebanese politicians and journalists opposed to Syria. Syria denies involvement in any of the attacks, but a U.N.-mandated investigation into Hariri’s killing has already implicated top Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the assassination. It has also accused Syria of failing to cooperate fully with the probe.
The commission has requested to interview Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is alleged to have threatened Hariri in a private meeting several months before the Feb. 14, 2005, assassination. Assad, who has denied threatening Hariri, has so far indicated he is not prepared to be interviewed. The head of the team, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, is scheduled to brief the U.N. Security Council on his progress on March 16.
Chirac, a close friend of Hariri, said in the interview that the former prime minister’s assassination will not go unpunished. “The truth and justice are necessary for the sake of a new Lebanon,” he said.
“Those who are behind the assassinations (in Lebanon) must realize that those who are defending Lebanon’s independence are not alone. The international community is with them and it is determined to succeed,” Chirac said.