FBI agents examined debris of the latest in a spate of bombings in Lebanon, an American involvement certain to unnerve Syria as it comes under stepped-up U.S. pressure to stay out of its neighbor's business.
Until now, Lebanon had shied away from seeking direct U.S. assistance, although federal agents investigated a bombing in June and a U.N. probe is under way in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.
FBI agents on Wednesday picked through metal fragments and lifted fingerprints from the site where a bomb tore through a car Sunday near the port city of Jounieh north of Beirut. The vehicle belonged to May Chidiac, a prominent anchorwoman and talk show host on a television station that has taken a line against Syria. She was maimed in the attack.
At the United Nations, the Security Council warned that those responsible for terrorist attacks against Lebanese journalists and politicians will not be allowed to jeopardize the country's stability, democracy and national unity.
The council also encouraged member states to respond to requests for assistance from the Lebanese government in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the attack on May Chidiac, and other terrorist attacks.
Both the Lebanese government and U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman took pains to explain that the American assistance was merely technical to provide expertise in evidence-gathering. But it also carried a message to Damascus, the former overlord of Lebanon for nearly three decades.
Syria, which was forced to withdraw its army from Lebanon in April under intense U.S. pressure, has been accused by Washington of continuing to interfere in Lebanese affairs and been warned to stay out.
In Syria, the arrival of the FBI was seen as intervention in Lebanese affairs.
"For sure, they don't like Lebanon that much. They are coming for other reasons, part of which is uncovering the bombings but most importantly to study the situation and to spy on Lebanon," said Elias Murad, editor-in-chief of Syria's state-run Al-Baath newspaper. "This is a direct intervention in Lebanese affairs that is an admission of the weakness of the Lebanese security services."
U.N. investigators returned to Lebanon on Friday after four days of questioning officials in Syria, whose army and intelligence units were in control of Lebanon when a massive bombing targeted Hariri's motorcade on a Beirut street, killing him and 20 others, reports the AP.