BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 20:09 GMT
Leaders condemn Lebanon car bomb
Policeman at site of car bomb which killed Gen Francois al-Hajj, Beirut
The blast damaged buildings and vehicles over a wide area

Politicians in Lebanon have condemned a bomb attack which killed a general slated to become army chief.

Gen Francois al-Hajj had been tipped for the post if MPs elected the current army head to the vacant presidency in attempts to end a political crisis.

Pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the bombing was an attempt to derail the presidency vote.

Some of his allies blamed Syria, but opposition Hezbollah and its Syrian backers also denounced the bombing.

Correspondents say the attack could further destabilise Lebanon, which is embroiled in its worst political crisis since its long civil war ended in 1990.

While the pro-West ruling bloc and pro-Syrian opposition, led by Hezbollah, agree Gen Suleiman should succeed former President Emile Lahoud to break a political impasse, the factions cannot agree on the formation of a new government.

Mr Lahoud left office on 24 November, and on Monday MPs postponed the presidential vote for an eighth time.

Lebanese soldier mourns Gen Francois al-Hajj, Beirut
The army is seen by some as a key unifying force in Lebanon
Gen Hajj, considered Gen Suleiman's likely successor, died along with two other people in a powerful explosion as his car drove through the high-security suburb of Baabda, in the Lebanese capital Beirut, on Wednesday.

"This heinous crime is one of a series of crimes that have targeted Lebanese institutions and leaders... and now is targeting the military and the army command in a bid to foil the presidential election," said Mr Siniora.


Syria has been implicated in some of a number of high profile political assassinations in Lebanon in the last two years, the majority of them anti-Syrian campaigners. It has denied involvement.

Feb 2005: Ex-PM Rafik Hariri
April 2005: MP Bassel Fleihan
June 2005: Anti-Syria journalist Samir Kassir
June 2005: Ex-Communist leader George Hawi
Dec 2005: Anti-Syria MP Gebran Tueni
Nov 2006: Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel
June 2007: Anti-Syria MP Walid Eido
Sep 2007: Anti-Syria MP Antoine Ghanim
Dec 2007: Army Gen Francois al-Hajj

Lebanese telecommunications minister Marwan Hamadeh accused the "Syrian-Iranian axis" of attacking the military, "the only body in Lebanon who can balance the power of Hezbollah and other militias in the country".

Hezbollah condemned Wednesday's bombing attack, calling Gen Hajj's death a "great national loss" and praising the military's "great national role" in preserving security.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem condemned what he described as a "criminal attack", Reuters news agency reported.

"We condemn any action that threatens Lebanon," he said.

The US said it "strongly condemned" the attack.

President George W Bush would "continue to stand with the Lebanese people as they counter those who attempt to undermine their security and freedom", a spokesman for the US government's National Security Council said.

Military 'stronger'

Although recent years have seen a string of political assassinations, this is the first time a senior military figure has been targeted.

Locator map showing palace
The BBC's Jim Muir in Tehran says there is a lot of speculation that whoever is behind the bombing is seeking to destabilise an institution which many Lebanese now see as the last hope of preserving the country's unity and stability.

Gen Suleiman called on the country's factions to avoid using the killing of Gen Hajj as a political tool, and said the army would not "succumb to terrorism".

"The army today is stronger than ever because the martyr Hajj has left us his blood as a legacy," he said in a statement.

Gen Hajj was chief of operations when Lebanon's army fought Islamic militants from Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp earlier this year.

But our correspondent says it is questionable whether the militants would have the means to carry out such a precisely targeted attack.

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific