WASHINGTON Oct 24 U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that Syria could take
advantage of a political vacuum in Lebanon, and she urged
Lebanese politicians to form a government free of "proxies and
agents for outside forces."
Clinton said the United States supports Lebanese President
Michel Suleiman's effort to form a new government amid a
political crisis following the killing of a top intelligence
officer in a Beirut car bombing on Oct. 19.
The car bombing and ensuing clashes brought the civil war in
Syria into the heart of Lebanon and triggered a political
crisis, with the opposition demanding the resignation of
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati's cabinet.
"We don't want to see a vacuum of legitimate political
authority that could then be taken advantage by the Syrians or
by others," Clinton told reporters in an appearance with
Brazil's visiting foreign minister.
"We call on all parties in Lebanon to support the process
that President Suleiman is leading to chose a responsible,
effective government," Clinton added.
Clinton said the United States would not prejudge who should
have a role in the new Lebanese administration, which could
replace Mikati's Hezbollah-backed government that critics charge
is too close to the Syrian government.
"This must be a Lebanese process. 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," Clinton said.
Violence has increased in Lebanon following Friday's
assassination of senior Lebanese security official Wissam
al-Hassan, who had worked to counter Syrian influence in
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to
answer repeated questions on whether the United States believes
that Mikati or Hezbollah should play a political role in any new
"We want to see this process move forward. We've been very
clear about our concerns about the role that Hezbollah is
playing inside Lebanon, and inside Syria," Nuland said.
Lebanon is still haunted by its 1975-1990 civil war. Many
Lebanese fear Syria's war will drag their country back into
conflict, destroying their efforts to rebuild it as a center of
trade, finance and tourism with a semblance of democracy.