A powerful bomb tore through a shopping mall in the Christian area north of Beirut March 23, killing three Asian immigrant workers and bringing Lebanon closer to chaos weeks before general elections. (Reuters, March 23) It is the latest outburst in an escalating climate of violence that has many fearing a new outburst of civil war.
"It is a political message to the [anti- Syrian] independence uprising," said Fares Boueiz, an opposition legislator and former minister. "Whoever was behind the blast had the intention to tell the Lebanese that Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon had a price." (CSM, March 24)
Meanwhile, Michel Abu Arrajm, top investigator in the assassination probe of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, asked to step down ahead of a UN report expected to criticize the Lebanese government’s handling of the probe. The investigation is at the core of the political turmoil in Lebanon. The opposition has refused to join a new cabinet until the prime minister-designate agrees to an international probe. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned at an Arab summit in Algeria March 23 that an international investigation may be necessary. (AP, March 23)