BEIRUT: EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told Prime Minister Najib Mikati that the European Union was concerned over Lebanon's stability following the assassination of top intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan by a car bomb.
“The bombing was a terrible thing. We are concerned over Lebanon’s stability,” Ashton told Mikati during the 60-minute meeting at the Grand Serail in Downtown Beirut.
A statement from Mikati’s office said Ashton highlighted during the meeting the fact that there were certain sides “seeking to divert the attention from the situation in the region by fabricating trouble in Lebanon.”
“We appreciate the positions of Mr. Mikati to maintain the cohesion and integrity of Lebanon under these difficult circumstances,” Ashton was quoted as telling Mikati.
Speaking to reporters before heading to the presidential palace for talks with President Michel Sleiman, the head of the European Union foreign policy described as “very good” her meeting with Mikati.
Ashton’s visit “is a show of support” for Mikati, a source at the Grand Serail told The Daily Star.
From Baabda Palace, Ashton drove back to Beirut for talks with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. Her talks with Lebanese officials also tackled developments in the Middle East and the impact of the Syria crisis on Lebanon.
Sources at the Grand Serail had earlier told The Daily Star that Ashton will reiterate the EU’s position which calls for the Lebanese government not to resign to avoid plunging the country into a power vacuum.
Mikati had announced his desire to resign following last week’s assassination of Lebanon’s top police intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan.
Hasan and at least two other people, including his bodyguard, were killed in a car bombing in Ashrafieh, Beirut, on Friday. Over 100 people were injured.
Foreign officials who have contacted Mikati since Hasan’s assassination have also urged him not to resign over fears about a power vacuum, said the sources at the Grand Serail.
Mikati has come under mounting pressure from the opposition March 14 parties to resign since Hasan’s killing. March 14 has blamed Mikati and Syrian President Bashar Assad for Hasan’s assassination.
On Tuesday, Mikati referred Hasan’s assassination to the Judicial Council, the highest judicial authority in Lebanon, before heading to Mecca for the Hajj.