US President George Bush and French President Jacques Chirac made the call for a "free Lebanon" in a joint statement on Monday.

 

The statement came as they were dining in Brussels in what was billed as a reconciliation effort after two years of bitter differences over Iraq.

   

"We urge full and immediate implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1559 in all its aspects, including its call for a sovereign, independent and democratic Lebanon as well as for the consolidation of security under the authority of a

Lebanese government free from foreign domination," they said.


Killing condemned 

   

"We support the UN investigation into this terrorist act and urge the full cooperation of all parties in order to identify those responsible for this act"

Joint Bush-Chirac statement

The two leaders said Lebanon's parliamentary elections, set to be held soon, can mark a milestone in its return to independence and democracy "if they are free and fair, conducted without outside interference and guaranteed by international observers".

   

Bush and Chirac condemned the assassination a week ago of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri but did not blame Syria for it.

   

"We support the UN investigation into this terrorist act and urge the full cooperation of all parties in order to identify those responsible for this act," they said.

 

Aljazeera's correspondent in Washington, commenting on the event, said it was expected that Bush would adopt a reconciliatory tone in his meetings with the Europeans and to bridge the gap brought about by the divisions over the invasion of Iraq.