December 14, 2007 / 4:46 PM / 12 years ago

Lebanon buries general, France sends warning

(Fixes typo in 7th paragraph)

By Nadim Ladki

BEIRUT, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Lebanon’s army urged feuding politicians to set aside their differences and resolve the country’s political crisis on Friday at the funeral of an assassinated general.

Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj was killed in a car bomb on Wednesday, the ninth figure to be assassinated in Lebanon in less than three years. He was the first military officer to be killed. The other attacks targeted anti-Syrian figures.

Hajj, who had good ties to Syria’s allies in Lebanon including Hezbollah, had been tipped to take over as army chief from General Michel Suleiman, who could be elected president by parliament as early as next week.

"In the name of your precious blood, we urge everyone to take a brave historic decision that would lead us to building confidence and communication between the sides and achieve reconciliation and consensus without any preconditions," Major General Shawki al-Masri, the army’s chief of staff, told the funeral service for Hajj at a church north of Beirut.

Masri said "blood messages", such as Hajj’s killing, were meant to weaken the foundations of Lebanon, as well as the army.

Schools, banks and public offices across the country were closed for a day of mourning.

The funeral coincided with a stark warning from French President Nicolas Sarkozy who said the Lebanese parliament must pick a new president on Monday.

The French leader, whose country led mediation efforts between the Lebanese Western-backed ruling coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition, warned that any country which intervened to prevent a deal would be isolated.

"Monday is the day of the last chance. France appeals to all parties, internally and externally, to work so that Lebanon can get a president of unity and consensus," Sarkozy told a news conference following a European Union summit in Brussels.


After weeks of wrangling, pro- and anti-Syrian camps have agreed to nominate Suleima

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