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U.S. Condemns Hariri Murder

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri died in a car bomb explosion that targeted his motorcade in Beirut, the Lebanese capital. The blast killed at least thirteen other people and wounded more than one hundred.

Mr. Hariri served as Lebanon's prime minister from 1992 to 1998 and from 2000 to 2004. In office, he mobilized political and financial resources to rebuild Beirut after fifteen years of civil war. Mr. Hariri moved toward Lebanon's political opposition after the country's parliament approved a three-year term extension for President Emile Lahoud. Mr. Hariri opposed that measure, which was strongly backed by Syria. Some fourteen thousand Syrian troops continue to occupy Lebanon.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said President George W. Bush was "shocked and angered" to learn of the terrorist attack that murdered former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri and killed and injured others:

"His murder is an attempt to stifle these efforts to build an independent, sovereign Lebanon, free of foreign domination. The people of Lebanon deserve the freedom to choose their leaders free of intimidation, terror and foreign occupation, in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559. The United States will consult with other governments in the region and on the Security Council...about measures that can be taken to punish those responsible for this terrorist attack, to end the use of violence and intimidation against the Lebanese people, and to restore Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and democracy by freeing it from foreign occupation."

A previously unknown group calling itself Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria claimed responsibility for the attack. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that it is too early to know who was behind the attack:

"It's premature to know who was responsible for this attack. But we continue to be concerned about the foreign occupation in Lebanon. We've expressed those concerns. Syria has maintained a military presence there for sometime now, and that is a concern of ours."

Mr. McClellan said Syria needs to withdraw its troops from Lebanon and let the Lebanese people decide their political future for themselves.