Syria denies link to bombing of French UN troops in Lebanon

Syria denies link to bombing of French UN troops in Lebanon

DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
Syria denies link to bombing of French UN troops in Lebanon

An Italian U.N. peacekeeper of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and Lebanese soldiers secure a damaged U.N. vehicle on the outskirts of the city of Tyre, southern Lebanon December 9, 2011. REUTERS photo

Syria on Monday denied involvement in a bombing that wounded five French UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, a day after France said Damascus was probably behind the attack.

"Syria has no link whatsoever with this act which we condemn," foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi said in a statement that also criticised French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe for pointing a finger at Damascus.

Juppe said on Sunday that Syria was probably behind Friday's bombing in southern Lebanon, adding however that so far he had no proof to back his claim.

"We have strong reasons to think that this attack came from there,"Juppe told the TV5 Monde television channel and Le Monde newspaper.

Juppe claimed that Syria had used the militant group Hezbollah for such attacks in the past.

"I don't have proof," he said, however.

Also on Sunday, Lebanese pro-Western opposition leader and ex-prime minister Saad Hariri tweeted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was to blame for the attack.

"Another message from Bashar," Hariri said on Twitter.

"Another Syrian message," he wrote.

In his statement, Makdisi said that "remarks by Mr Juppe and others are within the framework of premeditated French accusations made to mask the reality concerning Syria." The five French members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon were wounded on Friday when a bomb targeted their patrol on the outskirts of the coastal city of Tyre. Two passers-by were also wounded.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the third this year on UNIFIL soldiers.

Speaking at a military base in the northeastern French town of Saint Dizier, Prime Minister Francois Fillon paid homage to the injured soldiers and said the attack would not dampen France's commitment to the mission in Lebanon.

"I want to send a thought to the five French UNIFIL peacekeepers who were injured Friday in the south of Lebanon, in an attack whose cowardice will not shake our determination," said Fillon.