Lebanese opposition blames Syria for death

By Bassem Mroue

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 24 2012 9:32 p.m. MDT

Lebanese anti-government protesters wave national flags and chant slogans calling for the resignation of the government in front of the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. Lebanon's main opposition bloc blamed the Syrian regime on Wednesday for the killing of a top intelligence officer and demanded the current government, dominated by Syrian ally Hezbollah, resign. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Associated Press

BEIRUT — Lebanon's main opposition bloc stepped up pressure Wednesday on the Hezbollah-dominated government to resign after blaming the Shiite militant group's ally Syria for a car bomb that killed a top intelligence officer.

The anti-Syrian opposition alliance said Lebanon's rival groups can't hold a national dialogue until the government led by Hezbollah and its allies steps down.

"The first step to face strife is the fall of this government," said a statement by the March 14 coalition of anti-Syrian parties read by senior official Fares Soeid. "The government, through its leader and the political groups that back him, takes major responsibility for facilitating the plan of the criminal Assad regime," it added.

The statement was an apparent reference to what anti-Syrian politicians say is lack of support for investigations into other recent assassination attempts.

Friday's assassination of senior intelligence officer Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan in a car bomb has stirred up sectarian tensions in Lebanon, where Sunnis and Shiites are deeply divided over the Syrian civil war. Violence since the assassination has killed 13 people.

Damascus has intervened heavily in Lebanese affairs over the past decades and is blamed for the deaths of many prominent critics and anti-Syrian political figures. But Hezbollah remains a staunch ally to both Syria and Iran, which provide much of its arms and funding.

Soeid said the opposition will work to bring down the government through peaceful means.

The United States also waded into the debate, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton making a thinly veiled jab at Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.

Clinton told reporters in Washington that the Lebanese must choose their own government, but that "the Lebanese people deserve so much better."

"They deserve to live in peace and they deserve to have a government that reflects their aspirations, not acts as proxies and agents for outside forces," she said.

Lebanon's two largest political coalitions have lined up on opposite sides of Syria's civil war.

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