The “cowardly” assassination of former Finance Minister Mohammed Chatah in a car bombing in Beirut drew worldwide condemnation Friday as Lebanese officials and politicians mourned the loss of a “moderate” voice.
“Sad news from Beirut,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said via twitter.
“My thoughts and sympathy with the people of Lebanon and the families of all those killed,” he said.
U.S. Embassy condemned Chatah’s assassination: “He had a long history of promoting Lebanon’s stability and democratic principles in both Lebanon and abroad, ” the embassy said in a sttaement
British Ambassador Tom Fletcher condemned the “cowardly assassination,” in a twitter
“Chatah was a wise, tolerant, smart patriot,” he said.
“His courage not that he knew risks but that he believed Lebanon worth taking them for,” he said.
Fletcher said Chatah was “determined to honor his memory by support to justice, rule of law and stability for Lebanon.”
“Thoughts also with families of all those who lost loved ones, and with emergency services as they respond to this heinous act of terror,” Fletcher tweeted.
French Ambassador Paoli described Chatah as a “moderate” man and “the symbol of tolerance.”
He told Future TV’s reporter at Center House that French President Francois Hollande held a telephone conversation with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman to express his condolences.
The diplomat , who called for unity said Lebanon was in danger.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs also condemned the “terrorist” attack in downtown Beirut.
Talking to IRNA news agency, Hossein Amir-Abdollahiyan said: “The enemies of Lebanon are taking aim at all sides.”
He added: “Perpetrators of such moves are seeking to create new strife in the country.”
He expressed confidence that Lebanese officials and political factions will “foil all the evil attempts through vigilance.”
In its condemnation statement, the Arab League urged all Lebanese parties to exercise self-restraint.
Here at home Phalane MP Sami Gemayel condemned the assassination of Chatah. He told MTV:
“The assassins do not care about forming a new government or about the people’s concerns. The criminals have nothing to do with life and we are grateful that the March 14 camp is still alive.”
Phalange MP Nadim Gemayel described Chatah via Twitter Shatah as a moderate man.
“He was killed for having faith in Lebanon first and the principles of the Cedar Revolution”, he said.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also condemned the assassination, saying that it is part of the series of assassinations against March 14 figures.
“Our battle with the murderers is open and the Cedar Revolution will continue until we achieve the rise of the Lebanese state and until threats cease,” he remarked.
“They have gone too far with Chatah’s assassination and we cannot deal with this crime as an isolated incident, especially since it was executed by highly professional hands,” he added.
“Does the battle against Takfiris entail Chatah’s assassination?” he wondered in an indirect reference to Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria against alleged Takfiri groups.
“Chatah was a symbol of moderation and dialogue and we wonder just how frustrated the owners of illegitimate arms have become in that they sought to assassinate such a figure,” noted Geagea.
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt described the assassination of former Minister Mohammad Chatah ” a negative message to the moderate politicians in Lebanon.
“The assassination of Dr. Chatah is a negative message to all the moderates and should be received with [restraint],” Jumblatt said in a statement on Friday.
“It is a very negative message to all those who [act] wisely and should be faced with more [acts] of wisdom.”
Former ISF chief Ashraf Rifi also condemned Chatah’s assassination:
“To the criminal we say that they will not benefit from killing people and they will be tried by the STL.” A possible reference to the trial of five Hezbollah members who are accused of being behind former PM Rafik Hariri’s assassination.
Head of Future Movement parliamentary bloc and former PM Fouad Siniora said after March 14 meeting at Center House:
“Chatah’s murderer is the same one who is targeting the Syrian people, Tripoli, and the heroes of Lebanon since 2004 and until this day.”
“Chatah was killed at the hands of the murderer whom you all know. This same criminal threatens us on a daily basis. The criminal will not be victorious.”
“We say to the criminals that a free Lebanon will remain and it will not be defeated by tyrants.” he added.
“Lebanon will not die. It will not surrender and it will remain even after our death more powerful than the criminals.” He said, adding that Chatah’s murder should be referred to STL.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Boutros al-Rai described the assassination of the former Finance Minister as a loss for Lebanon.
“In the assassination of the former minister Lebanon has lost a shining face of moderation, intellect, and the love of [one’s] country,” Rai said in a statement on Friday.
Even politicians allied with the Syrian regime rushed to condemn Chatah’s assassination, despite the fact that fingers were pointed at Syria as being behind the murder
Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) chief MP Michel Aoun condemned Chatah’s murder, saying it’s time for every official, to carry out his duties and exercise his authorities at least in preserving security.
Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh slammed Chatah’s assassination, saying: “Lebanon’s civil peace is once again a target.”
“All sides are required to act responsibly and avoid subjecting Lebanon to the evil of internal strife,” he added in statement, while offering his condolences to the victims’ families.
Caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn who represents the Marada movement in the caretaker cabinet said the bombing targets Lebanon’s national unity.
“We hope that the blood of martyrs would bring the Lebanese closer,” he told LBCI, hoping for dialogue between the rival sides.
Similarly Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi who represents FPM in the caretaker cabinet described the bombing as “barbarous,” saying “it had nothing to do with any sect or cause.”
Caretaker Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil who represents Speaker Nabih Berri in the caretaker cabinet , a close ally of the Syrian regime called for “wisdom in resolving problems … and reaching an agreement on how to confront the upcoming stage.”
“We condemn this terrorist attack that targeted our brother Mohammed Chatah,” he added.
MP Alain Aoun, a key FPM member called for unity.
“The country is exposed and as long as we are divided we’re helping others to target us.”
Arab Democratic Party founder former MP Ali Eid, a close ally of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah described Chatah’s assassination as a terrorist act.
“This terrorist act reflects the political bankruptcy of the criminals and strips them from all ethical and humanitarian values.” Eid said
Chatah, a former ambassador to the United States, died Friday when a car bomb struck his convoy in downtown Beirut as he was heading to a March 14 meeting at Future Movement Saad Hariri’s residence in Downtown Beirut .
The blast killed five others and left 71 wounded, Lebanon’s health ministry said. Cars were burned beyond recognition as a wall of flames and thick black smoke shot up from the blast site.
Chatah’s bodyguard, Mohammed Badr, was among those killed, National News Agency said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Chatah was a close advisor of Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri and an outspoken critic of the Syrian regime and of Hezbollah.
Update : Another person died later from severe wounds
Photo: A general view from above shows Lebanese security forces and firefighters at the scene of a huge car bomb explosion that rocked central Beirut on December 27, 2013. AFP