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Lebanon's Sorrow

Syria no doubt saw Hariri as a greater threat than ever. Hariri told Monsef that he expected activists from one of his charities to be arrested on charges that their activities were part of his electoral campaign. Hariri believed that this was a direct response to leaving three deputies close to Syria off his parliamentary list.

In addition to his domestic stature, Hariri's wealth gave him far-flung contacts. He had a personal relationship with French President Jacques Chirac, who two days before the assassination had urged Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. And an aide to Hariri had visited Washington recently to see U.S. officials.

Who's boss? As Lebanon's prime minister in 1996, Rafiq Hariri, left, consulted with Syria's leader, Hafez Assad. (Sana/AP)

Read Nora Boustany's previous Diplomatic Dispatches columns.

So what better way to send a message to Washington, Paris and Lebanon's opposition than by assassinating the country's most credible reform figure? His defection to the opposition threatened to dislodge a sizable chunk of the political establishment, clients of Syria's old guard as well as Lebanon's Syrian-allied security apparatus.

These groups are, in turn, representative of an even longer list of obstructionists -- including diehard Wahabis, zealots inspired by al Qaeda, the losers from a new order in Iraq, the apparatchiks of President Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt, and the mullahs in Iran. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt (son of Kamal) told a newspaper that Hariri had told him two weeks ago, " 'They will hunt me down or hunt you.' " Jumblatt added, "So they got him."

"He did not have to die a martyr for the gates of history to fling open. He reserved his seat there early," Al Hayat columnist Ghassan Charbel wrote. "His killers erred. He was extracted from the daily chronicles of his homeland, but he is pinned to its chest like a medal."

Hariri was buried on Wednesday at Martyrs Square, in the heart of the city he rebuilt, as hundreds of thousands mourned to the sound of chants from the minarets and the tolling of church bells.

Author's e-mail: boustanyn@washpost.com

Nora Boustany, who is originally from Beirut, covered Lebanon for the Post from 1979 to 1995 and won a George Polk Award for her coverage in 1987. She now writes the paper's Diplomatic Dispatches column in Washington.

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