BEIRUT (Reuters) - France will oppose those creating instability in Lebanon, President Francois Hollande said on Sunday, two weeks after a car bombing in Beirut that the political opposition have blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Lebanon has been threatened by spillover from the 19-month-old conflict in neighbouring Syria in which 32,000 people have been killed as a peaceful pro-democracy movement morphed into an armed uprising after Assad tried to crush it by military force.
“I want to remind all those who have an interest in creating instability in Lebanon that France will oppose that because Lebanon is an example of unity,” Hollande said during a joint press conference with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.
Lebanon was thrown into crisis when top anti-Syrian intelligence officer Wissam al-Hassan was killed in a car bomb in Beirut on October 19. He had led an investigation that implicated Syria and its Shi‘ite Muslim Lebanese ally Hezbollah in the assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.
After last month’s attack, the political opposition demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, whose government includes Hezbollah. Syrian troops were garrisoned in Lebanon until 2005.
“I would say to all those who can contribute to the stability of Lebanon is to work through the spirit of dialogue,” Hollande said on a trip to Beirut before flying to Saudi Arabia. France, one of Assad’s strongest critics, has called for U.N. protection of areas controlled by opposition rebels in Syria.
Reporting by Laila Bassam and Oliver Holmes; editing by Mark Heinrich