Thursday, December 13, 2007

Secretary Rice on Lebanon-Dec 12,2007

Interview by Matt Lee and Anne Gearan of Associated Press

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 12, 2007

QUESTION: Let's do Lebanon. There's been another delay in the elections, and then of course today another assassination. Kind of a two-part question. First, do you think Siniora's government is salvageable? Is it dead in the water? And do you suspect Syria in today's killing?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, let me just say that the assassination of General al-Hajj is a really horrendous act and it's to be thoroughly condemned. He was obviously a patriot and it's worth saying that the Lebanese army is becoming more and more an institution of national unity and so it's extremely important to recognize that an attack against that -- against him and against the army, is really an attack against all of Lebanon and all of the Lebanese people.

Secondly, the Siniora government is continuing to function. They need a president. They need a president who is going to defend Lebanon's sovereignty, who's going to live up to Lebanon's international obligations. There appears to be a potential candidate, a compromise that is available, and it's really important that they be able to elect a president, that they be able to go and do it in the parliament. And Syria and all of Lebanon's neighbors need to play a constructive role and encourage all of their allies to let that happen and, in fact, not interfere with it. So this is a time of testing for Lebanon, but it's also a test for Lebanon's neighbors, including for Syria.

QUESTION: Specifically on who did it though, I mean, is there anything to suggest --

SECRETARY RICE: I don't -- we don't know, and I don't want to make accusations about something that happened this morning. But it seems like yet another effort to intimidate the Lebanese as they're trying to carry out normal political processes. But they're a very resolute people and I talked to Prime Minister Siniora today and he's absolutely resolute.

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