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Lebanese mark anniversary of ex-PM's murder

February 14, 2015

Ten years after he was killed in a car bombing, Beirut commemorated the death of prominent post-civil war Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. His son Saad returned from self-imposed exile to speak at the commemorations.

A ceremony honoring Rafik Hariri in Lebanon
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Hamzeh

Lebanon's former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has made a rare visit to his home country to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of his father, Rafik Hariri, himself a two-time prime minister, who was assassinated in 2005. Saad Hariri was joined by political leaders and scores of ordinary citizens who came to lay flowers at their late leader's grave, while local television provided rolling coverage of events commemorating his father's death.

Saad is set to give a speech at a ceremony dedicated to his father, who is credited with rebuilding Beirut after its destruction in the country's civil war. Special forces patrolled the streets near the venue and cordoned off traffic on Saturday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, though not present at the events in Beirut, gave a statement to offer condolences on the anniversary: "It's fair to say that the status quo is not the Lebanon that Prime Minister Hariri envisioned. Unless and until a president is chosen, the erosion of Lebanon's political institutions will only become more pronounced."

Kerry was referring to the stalemate in Lebanon's Parliament, which has failed to produce a new president since last May. He added that Washington, which backed the late Hariri, would support the country's government and the tribunal investigating the assassination.

Bloody history

The visit is just his second after four years in self-imposed exile. Saad Hariri left Lebanon in early 2011, after his Sunni government was ousted by a coalition that included the militant Shiite group Hezbollah. He now divides his time between Saudi Arabia and France, citing security reasons for not returning.

Prominent Sunni politician Rafik Hariri died in a 2005 car bomb explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut. At least 20 others were also killed and more than 200 injured when 2.5 tons of explosives were detonated.

His death marked the Middle Eastern nation's worst political crisis since its 15-year civil war, which formally ended in 1990.

Although the identity of the suicide bomber is still unknown, a special United Nations-run tribunal in The Hague has indicted five members of Hezbollah over the killings. The men are being tried in absentia, as the group denies any involvement and refuses to hand the suspects over.

Hezbollah's close ally, the Syrian government, has also been accused of being behind the attack. The ensuing anger caused Damascus to pull its troops out of Lebanon, ending its 30-year presence in the country.

Lebanon's existing fault lines have been further strained by the conflict in neighboring Syria, with Hezbollah supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Sunni politicians backing the uprising against it, resulting in the current parliamentary standoff.

an,es/gsw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)