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French Version

Impact of Kassir's death won't just 'go away'

The behavior demonstrated by Lebanese authorities following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was once more on full display in the hours following the murder of journalist Samir Kassir.

After the massive bombing that claimed the lives of Hariri and 20 others, the regime headed by President Emile Lahoud and other pro-Syrian figures attempted to contain the attack's impact.

If we take a short trip back in time, we will recall the regime's desire to put a quick and decisive end to the national mourning period over Hariri's murder and their attempts to ban demonstrations at Martyrs' Square. Amazingly, they believed the people would quickly and calmly accept the loss of Hariri, end their mourning and the country would return to normal.

The regime put forth an array of weak excuses, claiming public demonstrations hindered vehicle traffic at Martyrs' Square; that protests would lead to violent clashes between supporters from various parties; and that Hariri's grave should be closed to the public because it was being used for "electoral purposes."

Such claims were accompanied by intentionally leaked reports the army would suppress any public protests; by the regime's initial refusal of an international investigation into the February 14 assassination; by its insistence on maintaining Syria's military and intelligence presence; and by protection of the country's top security chiefs.

The regime and other pro-Syrian figures strove to abolish any and all political consequences for the crime - both internally and externally - and continued to do so this week when they attributed Saad Hariri's sweeping victory of Beirut to nothing more than voter sympathy with the Hariri family.

This logic refuses to admit the political nature of the Hariri assassination, that it has political repercussions and that the elections are a political process in which sympathy translates into a political position.

There is now yet another desperate attempt being made to sweep the very public assassination of Samir Kassir under the rug, with the regime astoundingly believing once more that such a crime will have no political consequences. How could this ever be the case when Kassir's keen awareness of such repercussions from Hariri's murder - and his demands for their full implementation - was one of the main reasons for his elimination? Through his actions and writings, Kassir was a leading activist during the post-assassination phase.

It is naive for the regime to expect that the uncertain political climate, non-existent security, and Kassir's assassination will have no influence on voters during the elections already under way. This latest crime has taken the seething political quagmire to the next level, and it is only to be expected that Kassir's assassination has revived the people's fervor.

As a result of this latest attack on the Lebanese people's sovereignty, the opposition has escalated its attacks against Lahoud and his regime and consecrated their divorce from the Free Patriotic Movement.

Kassir's assassination has had a huge political impact. The 'realities on the ground' have never been more apparent, and those concerned with Lebanon - both local and foreign - would be well advised to be sure of their calculations ahead of the next confrontation.

Walid Choucair is the director of the offices of Al-Hayat newspaper in Beirut

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Beirut 06-06-2005
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