UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The leader of the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon’s parliament on Tuesday called on Russia and China to use their influence to stop disruptive elements from interfering in his country’s upcoming presidential election.
Saad Hariri, the son of slain former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, also urged the U.N. to take stronger action against those responsible for a recent string of assassinations in Lebanon targeting anti-Syrian lawmakers and other figures.
“What’s happening today in Lebanon is a destabilizing coup,” Hariri told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York, flanked by several bodyguards.
“When you have members of parliament sitting in a building to protect themselves from an assassination that might happen … I think this is not acceptable for the international community. I think the international community should move on those who committed these crimes in a very swift way,” he added.
The Lebanese parliament failed to elect a president last month because of a boycott by the Syrian-backed opposition. Lawmakers have been unsuccessful so far in efforts to reach agreement on a consensus candidate between the pro-government camp and the opposition.
The anti-Syrian coalition is led by U.S.-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, a close ally of Hariri. The opposition is led by the Syria-backed Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah.
The parliament has scheduled another session on Oct. 23 to choose a successor to President Emile Lahoud, who steps down Nov. 24.
Government supporters accuse Syria of seeking to eliminate Saniora’s small majority in parliament before the election by targeting members of the ruling coalition for assassination. Eight prominent anti-Syrian figures have been killed in Lebanon since 2005, including Rafik Hariri.
Damascus has denied any involvement in the slayings.
Hariri said there was an effort under way in Lebanon to derail the elections.
Hariri said he spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the importance of holding the elections on time, and he appealed for Russia and China to help the country remain calm.
“What we want is to elect a president for the Lebanese people and we don’t want any interference from anyone,” he said. “Actually, what we ask (is for) his excellency the Russian ambassador and the Chinese ambassador to interfere with those who are interfering … in Lebanese politics.”
Earlier, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said he told Hariri that his country would do everything it could to help the elections run smoothly.
Last week, President Bush directly warned Syria against interfering in the election after meeting with Hariri in Washington.
The U.N. has authorized an international tribunal to try suspects in the slayings of Hariri and the other anti-Syrian figures, but some say it is taking too long to set up.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad, said Tuesday the recent assassinations would not slow down the process. “If anything, it has increased our efforts to (set it up) as soon as possible,” he said.