IMAGE: Saad Hariri and Hosni Mubarak
Amr Nabil  /  AP
Lebanese lawmaker Saad Hariri, left, leader of the Lebanese parliamentary majority, meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, on Tuesday.
updated 10/30/2007 7:02:33 PM ET 2007-10-30T23:02:33

The leader of Lebanon’s parliamentary majority claimed Tuesday that Syria was behind a plot to assassinate him and the Lebanese prime minister ahead of crucial presidential elections next month.

Saad Hariri did not elaborate on the plot, but when asked about reports that Syrian officials were behind it, he said, “We have information about this, and it is correct.”

“The assassination is not only of me but of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora also,” said Hariri, whose father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in a 2005 Beirut truck bombing that was widely blamed on Syria.

Saad Hariri spoke to reporters after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.

Syrian officials in Damascus could not be immediately reached for comment.

Lebanon’s anti-Syrian groups, which dominate the government, claim Damascus is behind a two-year killing spree that has claimed the lives of several anti-Syrian politicians and public figures. The latest was the Sept. 19 slaying of lawmaker Antoine Ghanem in a Beirut car bombing.

Syria has denied involvement in any of the killings. Rafik Hariri’s assassination provoked an outcry that forced Syrian troops to leave Lebanon after a 29-year presence.

U.S. confirms assertions
The U.S. State Department said it could confirm Saad Hariri’s claims.

“Without commenting on the specifics on those allegations, it’s clear that there is a pattern of threat, intimidation and use of violence against those who are trying to further the process of political reform in Lebanon,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Saad Hariri also accused Syria of trying to stall the election of a new Lebanese president by “influencing recent developments in Lebanon which have negatively affected reconciliation” between the country’s rival factions.

Last week, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the parliamentary session to elect a new president until Nov. 12 to give rival factions more time to find a compromise. The parliament, dominated by anti-Syrian legislators, failed to meet twice to choose a successor to pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, who steps down Nov. 24.

There had been hopes that the presidential vote could break a 10-month political deadlock between Lebanon’s U.S.-backed government and pro-Syrian opposition factions led by the militant Hezbollah.

Egypt has been trying to help resolve the deadlock. Media here have reported that Cairo is trying to persuade the rival factions to accept Lebanese army commander Michael Suleiman as a compromise candidate.

Lebanon fears rival governments
Under Lebanon’s complex sectarian-based political system, the president traditionally hails from the Maronite community, which makes up the largest sect among minority Christians.

The parliament majority is hoping to put one of its own in the post, but the opposition has rejected a president they don’t endorse. More than 15 declared or undeclared candidates are vying for the post.

Many Lebanese fear divisions over the presidency could lead to two rival governments — a grim prospect for a country that suffered through a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.

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