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Lebanese PM Heads Security Meeting on Minister's Murder
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Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora chaired in Beirut on Wednesday a meeting of the Lebanese Central Security Council to discuss developments regarding the assassination of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.

Following the meeting, Lebanon's acting Interior Minister Ahmad Fatfat told reporters that general attorney and heads of security bodies briefed Seniora with the latest developments on the Gemayel case.

"Security authorities had been questioning a substantial number of eyewitnesses," Fatfat said.

The minister denied any insufficiency in the work of the security authorities, noting Gemayel had been warned before the attack by his bodyguards of possible dangers and told to leave the convoy.

Fatfat also said that the Lebanese army and the security forces would jointly safeguard the public funeral of Gemayel in central Beirut today, adding that the Lebanese Army would be in command.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt accused Syria of ordering the killing of Gemayel and warned of more similar assassinations, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. TV reported.

"I accuse bluntly the Syrian regime... I expect more assassinations," Jumblatt, a key member of Lebanese anti-Syrian parliament majority, told a press conference at his Mukhtara hometown in the Chouf mountains.

"Yesterday they assassinated Pierre Gemayel in order to reduce the number of cabinet ministers so as to diminish the (anti-Syrian ruling) majority," Jumblatt said.

He accused Syria of seeking to bring down Prime Minister Fouad Seniora's government to prevent it from going ahead with plans for an international court to try the suspects in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which has been approved by the 15 members of the UN Security Council on late Tuesday.

According to Lebanese law, if eight ministers, or one third of the 24-member cabinet, quit the government, the government dissolves automatically, which would lead to the miscarriage of the already approved international tribunal.

After the resignation of the six pro-Syrian ministers and the death of Gemayel, the cabinet is on the brink of the collapse now.

At the key moment, the Druze leader appealed to the six pro-Syrian ministers who resigned from the cabinet earlier this month to return to their jobs for the sake of national unity.
He also urged a swift resumption of round-table talks between all the country's political factions, which failed when Seniora called for a cabinet meeting to approve the draft to form the international tribunal to try Hariri's suspected assassins.

The 34-year-old Gemayel was shot dead late Tuesday by a gunshot on his head when his convoy was attacked in Jedeide, about 15 km northeast from Beirut.

(Xinhua News Agency November 23, 2006 )

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