Lebanese leaders urged for calm on Thursday after the country's first political assassination in months threatened attempts to reconcile its political parties. The killing of Druze Sheikh Saleh Aridi, a senior member of the Lebanese Democratic Party, came less than a week before planned reconciliation talks among rival Lebanese factions.
Aridi died late Wednesday in his village of Baissour in the hills east of Beirut, after a bomb planted under his car was detonated by remote control. The attack was thought by politicians to be an effort to rekindle violence between two main Druze factions - the Lebanese Democratic Party led by Talal Arslan and the Progressive Socialist Party of Walid Jumblatt.
The perpetrators were targeting "unity and coexistence" among the Druze and Lebanon, Arslan said after rushing back from a trip abroad Thursday. According to the AP, Jumblatt went to the village after the bombing to express solidarity.
On his part, Premier Fouad Saniora said Thursday it is the right of the Lebanese government to "participate in taking the decision to go to peace or war." Saniora, in an interview with Al Arabia Television, said Aridi was assassinated to end the role he played in coordinating efforts between Jumblat and Talal Arslan. "Aridi's assassination was a message that reconciliation and understanding are not allowed," Saniora said.
The assassination, Saniora said, also aimed at "sparking intra-Druze sedition and to kill the Lebanese people's hope in stability … We have to confront this trend decisively."