Thursday, December 13, 2007

President Bush Statement on Hajj's assassination and on lebanese presidency



Office of the Press Secretary



For Immediate Release                    December 13, 2007





I strongly condemn yesterday's assassination of Lebanese Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj and extend my condolences to his family and the families of the innocents who were murdered alongside him. 


This assassination marks the twelfth political assassination or attempted assassination Lebanon has suffered since October 2004.  Like the many victims before him, General al-Hajj was a supporter of Lebanon's independence and an opponent of Syria's interference in Lebanon's internal affairs.  I call on the international community to support the Government of Lebanon in its efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of these vicious attacks, and to stand with the citizens of Lebanon who continue to struggle to safeguard their freedom, sovereignty, and democracy.  This act of terrorism again reminds us of the importance of the International Tribunal established by the UN Security Council earlier this year and of the urgency of ensuring that the Tribunal is fully funded and capable of commencing its operations as soon as possible, to begin holding accountable those responsible for this systematic campaign of murder against Lebanon's most ardent patriots.  We must work together to support and strengthen an independent and democratic Lebanon.   


This attack comes as Lebanon is seeking to choose a new president.  The United States supports the efforts of the democratically elected Lebanese Government and the Lebanese Armed Forces to maintain the sovereignty and stability of Lebanon before the presidential elections.  As Lebanon seeks to select a president democratically and in accordance with its constitution, interference by the Syrian regime and its allies, aimed at intimidating the Lebanese people, must end.  The people of Lebanon deserve the opportunity to choose their leaders in freedom and without fear. 

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State Department on Lebanon and Syria-December 12,2007

State Department
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 12, 2007

QUESTION: Lebanon?


QUESTION: You said that you linked this assassination with some others during the last two years.

MR. MCCORMACK: And just note that --

QUESTION: Does it mean that you see the (inaudible) of Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't. I can't tell you who is responsible for the assassination that occurred in Lebanon just today. I note it only because there is a coincidence in timing. I can't tell you whether or not that is planned or whether or not is in fact a coincidence. And I'm not trying to at this point in time because we don't have the information attribute any particular group as being responsible for this.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Still on Lebanon. Do you have a reaction to the Syrian Foreign Minister's denouncement of the assassination?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, you know, anytime you have officials in the region speaking out against the use of violence as a political tool, I think as a minimum standard, you can say that that is positive. But for it to, in fact, have real meaning, it needs to be something that the -- that government is committed to. And it's not entirely clear at this point that Syria, as a government, is committed to turning away from the use of violence to gain political leverage and advantage in the region and certainly, has not turned away from supporting those groups which have sworn to use violence and terror to undermine the progress to bring about a more stable, prosperous, and democratic Middle East.

QUESTION: Without a usual suspect in these kind of cases, do you think this is significant that they've come out with this statement?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't attribute any particular motivation to it. You've have to ask the Syrian Government as to why, at this point in time and with respect to this particular act, they chose to speak out. I don't know.

QUESTION: But you said that you can't say that Syria's turned away from the use of violence for political leverage in the region. Do you think they're still trying to do that specifically in Lebanon, use violence as a political tool?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know --

QUESTION: I'm not saying in this particular --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I know. Look, there have been a lot of -- going back over the past year or so, there have been a lot of suspicions about Syria's involvement in political assassinations, attempted assassinations, use of violence, and interference in Lebanon's internal affairs. We've talked a lot about that over the past year. I can't pin any particular act on the Syrian Government. I just can't draw those -- connect those dots for you, but certainly, there -- over the past year, there have been a lot of suspicions about it.

QUESTION: What is the current level of discussions -- I mean, I know we don't have the ambassador there, but you do have an embassy -- level of discussions between the government or the embassy and the Syrian Government in terms of the political situation in Lebanon and their need to stop any interference? Are there any discussions whatsoever about the issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I'm not sure -- I'm not sure what the most recent contacts that we've had between our embassy and the Syrian Government are. They've gotten a pretty clear message about the fact that the world doesn't want them to interfere in Lebanon's political affairs. This goes back some time. And the Secretary made that quite clear, when she last saw the Syrian Foreign Minister, as part of her message.

QUESTION: Did you see the remarks made by the Syrian Vice President yesterday?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't. What did he say?

QUESTION: Well, he criticized the Annapolis conference, that nothing will come out of it and that the U.S.-Israeli plan for the Middle East failed and Syria will not give any concessions that the U.S. were pressuring it to do.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. You know, I don't know. I don't know for whose consumption he put that out there. I can only say that during the actual -- during the conference itself, one -- taken as a whole, one could say that the Syrian representative's remarks were constructive, so -- you know, I don't know -- I don't know for whose consumption they put this out.

State Department Statement on Francois al-Hajj assassination and on Presidential Elections

US Department of State

Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 12, 2007

Assassination of Francois al-Hajj in Lebanon

The United States condemns today's brutal assassination of Lebanese Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all of the victims, and with the Lebanese government, Army, and people.This bombing is yet another vicious and cowardly attack against Lebanon and its constitutional institutions. Two years ago today, Lebanon mourned the death of Lebanese Parliamentarian Gebran Tueni, just one of numerous other Lebanese leaders who have been murdered for their service to their country.

Today's heinous attack comes at a crucial time for the future of the Lebanese people when a minority in Lebanon's opposition is blocking the holding of presidential elections. The international community has called for the Lebanese to hold, without delay, a free and fair presidential election in conformity with the Lebanese constitutional rules, without foreign interference or influence and with full respect for Lebanon's democratic institutions.

The United States commends the legitimate and democratically elected government of Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces for their roles in managing the affairs of the State and in protecting Lebanon's security in the period until the presidential election occurs.

The Lebanese people deserve to live in an independent and secure country without fear of violence and intimidation from those who would seek to undermine Lebanese democracy.


Released on December 12, 2007


Secretary Rice on Lebanon-Dec 12,2007

Interview by Matt Lee and Anne Gearan of Associated Press

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 12, 2007

QUESTION: Let's do Lebanon. There's been another delay in the elections, and then of course today another assassination. Kind of a two-part question. First, do you think Siniora's government is salvageable? Is it dead in the water? And do you suspect Syria in today's killing?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, let me just say that the assassination of General al-Hajj is a really horrendous act and it's to be thoroughly condemned. He was obviously a patriot and it's worth saying that the Lebanese army is becoming more and more an institution of national unity and so it's extremely important to recognize that an attack against that -- against him and against the army, is really an attack against all of Lebanon and all of the Lebanese people.

Secondly, the Siniora government is continuing to function. They need a president. They need a president who is going to defend Lebanon's sovereignty, who's going to live up to Lebanon's international obligations. There appears to be a potential candidate, a compromise that is available, and it's really important that they be able to elect a president, that they be able to go and do it in the parliament. And Syria and all of Lebanon's neighbors need to play a constructive role and encourage all of their allies to let that happen and, in fact, not interfere with it. So this is a time of testing for Lebanon, but it's also a test for Lebanon's neighbors, including for Syria.

QUESTION: Specifically on who did it though, I mean, is there anything to suggest --

SECRETARY RICE: I don't -- we don't know, and I don't want to make accusations about something that happened this morning. But it seems like yet another effort to intimidate the Lebanese as they're trying to carry out normal political processes. But they're a very resolute people and I talked to Prime Minister Siniora today and he's absolutely resolute.

Full Text:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman's letter of goodbye

Confident of Lebanon's Hopeful Future
By U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey D. Feltman,
December 8, 2007
I am leaving Lebanon very soon to take up a new assignment in Washington.  No doubt, there will be those who will be eager to insist that my departure symbolizes the retreat of the United States from Lebanon.  The truth of the matter is that I was supposed to leave in July 2007.  I have stayed precisely because the U.S. Government did not want a transition in the Embassy in the middle of the constitutional period for presidential elections.  Do not believe those who will claim that my departure, many months late, symbolizes a weakening of the U.S. commitment to Lebanon.  Just the opposite:  the American government and the American people stand with Lebanon and the Lebanese people as they work to secure their democracy, unity, sovereignty, independence, and prosperity.  
I have been in Lebanon since summer 2004.  I am grateful that I can still see, talk to, laugh with, my very dear friends Marwan Hamadeh, Elias Murr, and May Chidiac.  I mourn those whom Lebanon has lost since I have been here:  Rafiq Hariri, Basil Fleihan, Samir Kassir George Hawi, Gebran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel, Walid Eido, Antoine Ghanem, and all those murdered with them.  It saddens me to realize that no U.S. Ambassador after me will ever have the honor of working with Prime Minister Hariri.  But I hope for the sake of all the Lebanese people that no U.S. Ambassador after me ever has to bear painful witness to the type of anguish, death and destruction Lebanon endured in summer 2006, when Hizballah, ignoring Lebanon's National Dialogue and bypassing its constitutional institutions, provoked war.
Despite the losses, the Lebanon that I am leaving soon has retained all those wonderful qualities that so impressed me when I first encountered this beautiful country:  a talented, cosmopolitan, and energetic people; a lively and free media; a respect for diversity; and deep democratic traditions.  But many aspects of Lebanon have changed over the last three years, and changed for the better:  Syria's military occupation ended.  Lebanese officials no longer have to check with Syrian intelligence officers, or any other outside powers, regarding their decisions.  One political leader returned home from exile, and another one returned to public life through a parliamentary amnesty.  For the first time in decades, Lebanon got a "made-in-Lebanon" government rather than one imposed by Damascus.  The establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon should end the sad era of impunity for assassinations in Lebanon.  The adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, the expansion of UNIFIL, and the historic deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces to the south help provide stability and security to a part of Lebanon that has suffered too much over the years.  Earlier this year in Nahr al-Barid, the Lebanese Armed Forces proved that Lebanon will not tolerate new terrorist groups trying to take root.  One president left office peacefully at the end of his constitutional mandate, and candidates considered to replace him were proposed by the Lebanese, not by any outside power.  Finally, the Lebanese demonstrated their wisdom repeatedly over the past year, including now, when, faced with rising tensions, they chose to turn away from civil conflict that would have been too easy to escalate.
I recognize that much more work needs to be done to meet the political and economic needs of the Lebanese people.  Thankfully, the international community has been generous in its political and financial support to Lebanon during this transitional period.  I am pleased that the American people, through the U.S. Congress, have committed well over a billion dollars to Lebanon since September 2006:  this is an enormous jump in what had been less than $50 million in yearly U.S. assistance to Lebanon annually when I arrived in 2004.  We are only one of a number of partner countries who are helping.  The goal of Lebanon's friends is to respond to the request of the Lebanese themselves to help strengthen the institutions of the state, including the army and police, and to help create economic prosperity that benefits the entire country.  We share the firm conviction of most Lebanese that a strong state, with publicly accountable and tran sparent institutions operating within the rule of law, is the best protection for Lebanon's future.
But for all of this international assistance and attention to reach its full potential in helping Lebanon, please permit me to say that it would be better if all of Lebanon's constitutional institutions were permitted to function fully.  In our view, a parliamentary democracy cannot help but be damaged when its legislature was locked for more than a year.  And I cannot think of another democracy where the minority chooses which cabinet decrees to define as legitimate, such as those governing the August parliamentary by-elections, and which to reject.  It strikes foreign observers as most odd that cabinet ministers can claim to have resigned, giving their political backers a pretext to proclaim the cabinet illegitimate, yet in fact they continue to work as before.  The United States, like Lebanon's other friends in the international community, has been a strong supporter of Lebanese presidential elections for many reasons, and we hope that s uccessful presidential elections, free of outside interference and intimidation, will revive these essential constitutional institutions.  We pledge our support for a new president and new government committed to Lebanon's independence and democracy.   
With a new president and cabinet in place, I am sure that my successor will witness a further consolidation of Lebanon's sovereignty and independence.  Moreover, I am sure that all U.S. Ambassadors after me will, like me, continue to marvel at the creativity and courage of the Lebanese people.  Above all, I am sure that they will be as sincerely grateful as I am to the Lebanese people for their astonishingly generous gifts of friendship and hospitality.  I feel privileged to have been a guest in Lebanon since summer 2004, and I very much look forward to following the news of Lebanon's success in the years to come.
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