Lebanon’s premier, under intense political flak over a car bombing that killed a senior security official, said on Saturday he would stay on after the president said it would be in the national interest.
PM Najib Mikati spoke after an urgent cabinet meeting discussed the Friday bombing in Beirut that killed at least three people, wounded scores and has been blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I assured the president of the republic (Michel Sleiman) that I was not attached to the post as head of the government,” Mikati told a news conference. “He asked that I stay in place because it is not a personal issue but one of the national interest.”
Lebanese opposition figures had demanded that Mikati and his government step down after the blast, which killed Internal Security Forces (ISF) intelligence chief General Wissam al-Hassan, a prominent anti-Assad figure.
Hassan had suspected the regime in neighbouring Syria of murdering his mentor, former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
The grey-moustached general, 47, a Sunni Muslim, had sent his wife and children to Paris because he “knew he was a target”, said a Lebanese opposition leader hostile to the regime of al-Assad.
As intelligence chief of Lebanon’s police, Hassan dismantled Islamist networks in his country and shut down Israeli-linked spy operations.
Syria jets resume attacking town
Syrian warplanes resumed bombarding the key northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan on Saturday, as clashes erupted on a nearby highway and an explosion rocked a town in Damascus province, a watchdog said.
The warplanes pounded Maaret al-Numan as they have daily since it was overrun by rebels on October 9, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
One rebel was killed in fighting after insurgents attacked a military convoy on the highway south of Maaret al-Numan, which connects the northern city of Aleppo with Damascus, the Observatory said.
The military wants to regain control of the highway to resupply units under fire in Aleppo for the past three months and assist 250 troops besieged in their Wadi Deif base.
On Friday, fighters there accused the regime of using cluster bombs in the attack, echoing claims by a rights group. Human Rights Watch has accused Syria of using cluster bombs, a charge denied by the military, which insists it does not possess them.