U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned on Wednesday that any power vacuum in Lebanon could be “taken advantage of” by Syria, amid calls by the opposition March 14 camp for the government to step down.
"We don't want to see a vacuum of legitimate political authority that could then be taken advantage of by the Syrians or by others that could create even greater instability and violence," Clinton told a news conference.
"We call on all parties in Lebanon to support the process that President (Michel) Suleiman is leading to choose a responsible effective, government that can address the threats that (Lebanon) faces and hold accountable those responsible for last week's bombing" that killed Intelligence Bureau chief Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan and two other people.
Clinton said the United States would not prejudge the outcome of Suleiman's call for all-party talks on forming a new government.
"This must be a Lebanese process," she said.
"But the Lebanese people deserve so much better. They deserve to live in peace and they deserve to have a government that reflects their aspirations, not acts as proxies and agents for outside forces."
On Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said her country backs efforts to form a new governing coalition in Lebanon, after last week's assassination of Intelligence Bureau chief Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan plunged the country into a political crisis.
"We support the efforts of President (Michel) Suleiman and other responsible leaders in Lebanon to build an effective government and to take the necessary next steps in the wake of the October 19th terrorist attack," said Nuland.
Hasan led a series of probes linking the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad to political assassinations in Lebanon.
Asked specifically if Washington supported a change of government in the country, Nuland said: "President Suleiman is engaged in discussions with all parties to form a new government. We support that process."
"In the interim, we don't want to see a vacuum," she added.
"The export of instability from Syria threatens the security of Lebanon now more than ever, and it's really up to the Lebanese people to choose a government that is going to counter this threat."
Nuland's remarks echoed those of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who on Tuesday also expressed concern about Lebanon's stability.
The bombing has raised fears about unrest in the country, which is divided between supporters and opponents of Assad.
Hasan's murder also has provoked a political crisis, with a Syria-hostile opposition calling for the resignation of the government dominated by the Syrian-backed Hizbullah.
The opposition -- which has blamed Damascus for Hasan's killing -- has announced that its delegates would boycott all meetings with the government of Prime Minister Najib Miqati until he steps down.
Miqati expressed a desire to step down but said Saturday he would stay at the request of Suleiman in the "national interest."
While it supports the opposition, the international community reacted by backing Miqati amid fears of a political void.
On Monday, the ambassadors of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as the U.N.'s representative, expressed their "unequivocal condemnation of any attempt to destabilize Lebanon through political assassination."
Also on Monday, the United States said it would send a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) team to Lebanon to assist in the investigation of Hasan's murder. Nuland said Tuesday the team would be sent "shortly".
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