The UN Security Council unequivocally condemned Tuesday's assassination of Lebanon's anti-Syrian industry minister and approved a UN-Lebanese agreement that would create a tribunal to prosecute the suspected killers of another Lebanese politician - former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
A statement read by the council president condemned "any attempt to destabilize Lebanon through political assassination or other terrorist acts" and expressed grave concern at the possible impact of the killing of Christian politician Pierre Gemayel on efforts" to solidify
democracy" in the country.
The council called Gemayel "a patriot who was a symbol of freedom and of the political independence of Lebanon."
Gemayel's assassination is expected to escalate an already tense political situation in Lebanon and came hours before a deadline for Security Council members to approve a letter authorizing Secretary-General Kofi Annan to conclude the agreement with the Lebanese government to establish the mixed tribunal.
The deadline for objections was 6 p.m. on Tuesday, but the US, French and Qatar ambassadors announced after closed consultations that the letter had been approved by all 15 council members almost two hours early.
Protest in Lebanon following assassination (Photo: Reuters)
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who is anti-Syrian, is under pressure from the Hizbullah movement, which has increased its following after the summer war against Israel.
The government is trying to extend its authority into the south, dominated by Hizbullah, which is backed by Syria and Iran.
Many Lebanese blame Syria for the killing of Hariri in a suicide truck bombing in February 2005. Damascus denies involvement, although a UN commission investigating the assassination has implicated senior Lebanese and Syrian security officials.
Meanwhile, the London-based Arabic language newspaper reported that Minister Gemayel was shot by three gunmen with an automatic weapon. According to the report, the three came out of the car, opened fire at the minister's car and disappeared.
It was also reported that Gemayel feared the upcoming months in Lebanon and asked his wife last week to take their children outside of Lebanon.
Roee Nahmias contributed to the report