Lebanese PM suspects assassination linked to bomb plot

Sat Oct 20, 2012 2:47pm GMT

By Laila Bassam and Angus MacSwan

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Saturday he suspected the assassination of a senior Lebanese intelligence chief was linked to his role in uncovering Syrian involvement in an earlier bomb plot.

As fear and anger gripped Lebanon over Friday's car bomb attack, Mikati also said the president had asked him to stay in his post despite his offer to resign and make way for a national unity government.

In the streets of Beirut and other cities, gunmen and demonstrators blocked roads with burning tyres to protest against the killing of Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan in the explosion in the capital on Friday afternoon.

Lebanese politicians have accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being behind the attack, deepening fears that Syria's sectarian-tinged civil war is spreading to its neighbour.

The opposition March 14 bloc had called for the government, which includes ministers from the Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah, which is close to Assad, to step down.

Mikati, speaking at a news conference at the presidential palace, stopped short of blaming Assad directly.

But he said he suspected the bombing was related to the indictment in August of former minister Michel Samaha, a supporter of Assad, over a plot allegedly aimed at stoking violence in Lebanon.

"A prime minister does not anticipate investigations, but quite honestly ... I cannot separate in any way the crime that took place yesterday and the discovery of the conspiracy against Lebanon in August," he said.   Continued...

A woman mourns at a poster with an image of senior intelligence official Wissam al-Hassan during a protest against his killing, at Martyrs' square in downtown Beirut October 20, 2012. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.