Lebanon mourns Gen. Francois El Hajj, murdered with four others in explosion outside presidential palace early Wednesday

The huge explosion in the Christian village of Baabdeh east of Beirut targeted the officer named to succeed as chief of staff after Gen. Michel Suleiman is elected president. A Mercedes rigged as a car bomb detonated as Brig al-Hajj’s vehicle passed by.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources: The terrorist attack undermined a key corner of Washington’s evolving understanding with Tehran and Damascus.
They are demanding payment in Lebanon and in Palestinian-Israeli coin for slowing their support for the Iraqi insurgency. While the US accepted the pro-Syrian Hizballah sympathizer Gen. Suleiman as next Lebanese president, his parliamentary endorsement has been held up by the demand for a pro-Damascus reshuffle of government. They want the pro-Western Fouad Siniora replaced as prime minister and the foreign affairs, justice and internal security portfolios handed to Hizballah.
US ambassador to Beirut Michael Feltman has been recalled for consultations.
Syrian president Bashar Assad is furthermore holding out for the dismantling of the tribunal for trying the perpetrators of the 2005 assassination of ex-PM Rafiq Hariri. A trial would place members of his inner family and political circles in the dock. While the presidential election has been delayed eight times since Emile Lahoud ended his term in November, most recent Lebanese history has been written in seven lethal car bombings attributed to Syrian military intelligence, for which no one was brought to account.
To elect the Lebanese chief of staff as president, parliament must amend the constitution’s requirement of a cooling-off period for military candidates.
The attack in Baabdeh threatens to derail the process of electing a new president, by tradition a member of the Maronite Christian community, until Syrian and Iranian terms are met.

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