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Nasr: Killing to create chaos for Lebanese government

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(CNN) -- Lebanon's Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel was shot and killed by apparent assassins Tuesday in Beirut, senior Lebanese government officials said.

Octavia Nasr, CNN's senior editor for Arab affairs, discussed the shooting, its impact and the significance of Gemayel being part of a prominent family of Christian politicians, with CNN's Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: Tell us what all of this means.

NASR: This is huge for Lebanon, very important to put things in perspective. This is not just any minister that was shot. Basically it is an assassination. He was shot in the head. Arab media this morning, especially Lebanese media, are confirming that he was killed, and also Saad Hariri, the head of the -- what they call the independence bloc in Lebanon just announced in his press conference that Pierre Gemayel is indeed dead.

What this means is really chaos for Lebanon, at least for the short term because this is a government that was struggling with a lot of opposition from Hezbollah and the other pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon. Already, Hariri pointed the finger at Syria, saying that Syria is behind the assassination. This is what the majority in government will be saying.

The only people being cautious about pointing fingers are the -- those that support Syria, and basically what is going to happen now is that there will be chaos. This is one minister missing from the government, the government that had approved only last week an international tribunal to look into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri which took place last year, February of 2005, which started a whole new era for Lebanon, with Syria pulling out its troops, with the government basically forming a new government, taking hold.

And now, this very government that took over last year is facing a lot of opposition. And with losing one Christian member of it, this is going to create chaos for this government.

The more likely scenario at this point is that this government is not going to be able to work effectively. There will be calls for a new government or an immediate replacement of this one minister.

So, while the country is now going to be mourning this one huge personality, I have to tell you, this is not just any person that was assassinated. ... This is going to create a lot of anger on the streets of Lebanon because this is going to be seen as Syria and its supporters inside Lebanon really meddling with the business, with the democracy, with the constitution, with everything that really makes up Lebanon at this point.

So, expect reaction from the U.S., expect reaction from Europe, expect reaction from the whole world. But at the same time, there will be groups that will be very cautious as to pointing fingers toward Syria at this point.

COLLINS: You talk about this particular person being someone who really resonated with a big personality. Is that true as well with the people of Lebanon? You talk about chaos within the government and someone who will certainly have to replace this minister. What about the people and their relationship with him?

NASR: Right. Pierre Gemayel is a young man who comes from a family of politicians in Lebanon, a very prominent family. Gemayel, a Christian Maronite, basically his grandfather is the person who started the political group, the Phalangists, in Lebanon. And, you know, his grandfather was a very prominent figure; later on his father and his uncle were also prominent figures.

As a matter of fact, his uncle was assassinated himself as a president-elect of Lebanon. So basically this is a family that paid a high price in the -- during the civil war of Lebanon, and now with this assassination ... this will definitely resonate with the people.

Many people stand behind the family and also the group itself. Remember last year, 2005, February of 2005, Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, was assassinated. And that drove people to the streets, demonstrating in the streets, and basically calling for Syria to pull out of Lebanon and calling for the pro-Syrian government to just go home. That's exactly what happened.

But since then, many people, many observers, many experts who are very aware of what's going on in Lebanon have said that Syria is not going to be letting this happen just so easily, that Syria continues to meddle in Lebanon's business.

As a matter of fact, you heard President Bush several times, Condoleezza Rice, many people in this -- in the U.S. administration calling on Syria to stop meddling in Lebanon's business for this very reason.

Lebanese politician Pierre Gemayel was a supporter of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority.


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