BEIRUT: Condemnation of “unjustified” and “absurd” violence was tempered by calls for Lebanese unity and restraint as international leaders reacted to Friday’s car bombing in Beirut which claimed the lives of top intelligence official Wissam al-Hasan and at least four others.
The U.N. Security Council “unequivocally” condemned any attempt to destabilize Lebanon through political assassinations and demanded an immediate end to the use of intimidation and violence against political figures.
Designating the bomb an act of terrorism, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “There is no justification for such violence.
“It was a car bomb. We have no reason to believe it was not terrorism. We condemn this act of terrorism,” she said.
Nuland added that the United States did not know who the perpetrators were but that all of its embassy staff in Beirut were accounted for and there were no immediate reports of Americans being injured.
The Vatican, just over a month after Pope Benedict XVI’s widely acclaimed visit to Lebanon, also voiced its condemnation.
“The attack in Beirut deserves the strongest condemnation for its absurd, murderous violence,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement, adding that the attack was “contrary to efforts and commitments to maintaining peaceful coexistence in Lebanon ... It is to be hoped that this horrible event will not be an excuse for increased violence.”
Instead, “Lebanon should represent, as the pope has said repeatedly, a message of peace and hope for its people and those of the entire region,” Lombardi added.
Benedict, during his September visit, called on the international community and especially Arab countries, to work to resolve bloody conflicts in the region, notably in Syria.
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande urged Lebanon’s politicians to stay united and guard against attempts to destabilize the country.
He did not spell out who might be trying to undermine the country through the attack.
But France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, has repeatedly warned of the risk of the conflict in neighboring Syria spilling over the border.
“The head of state calls on all Lebanese politicians to maintain unity in Lebanon and protect it from all destabilization efforts no matter where they come from,” Hollande’s office said in a statement. “Hasan was killed in this attack. He was a man dedicated to his country, its stability and independence ... His death is a great loss.”
The slain head of the Internal Security Forces Information Branch led the investigation that implicated Syria and Hezbollah in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
For his part, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, one of Assad’s harshest critics, urged for restraint in Lebanon. “More than ever it is necessary for Lebanon to stay out of regional tensions,” he said.
Paris said in December it believed Syria was behind attacks on its troops in Lebanon after a roadside bomb wounded five French peacekeepers in the south of the country.
The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary William Hague also commented on Friday’s car bomb, expressing his horror and highlighting Britain’s support for the Lebanese government.
“I am horrified by the massive car bomb in Beirut today. This is a horrendous act that shows an appalling contempt for human life. My thoughts are with the friends and families of those who lost their lives as well as with those who have been injured. We remain fully committed to supporting the Lebanese government in their efforts to build a more stable and secure Lebanon,” Hague said in a statement published on the British Foreign Office website.
For her part, the European Union’s High Representative Catherine Ashton drew attention to the loss of civilian life in the bombing, saying: “I strongly condemn today’s bomb attack in the center of Beirut, which killed Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan and several other people going about their business in a residential area. My thoughts are with the families of those who have been killed, to whom I offer my sincerest condolences.”
Ashton also wished the wounded a “quick and full recovery” before adding her voice to those calling for calm in the attack’s aftermath.
“This shocking attack stands in stark contrast to the recent efforts to rebuild this country, guarantee its stability, consolidate the sense of national unity and promote a culture of dialogue ... I call upon all Lebanese to remain calm and to ensure that this attack does not destabilize the country,” Ashton said.
The high representative also called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and reiterated the EU’s full support for efforts to advance security and unity in Lebanon, which she described as “essential to the region’s stability.”