WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday condemned the bombing in Beirut which killed former Lebanon finance minister Mohammed Chatah and five others, branding it an "abhorrent terrorist attack."
In a statement, the top American diplomat said the "assassination" of Mr Chatah - an influential member of a coalition opposed to Syria's ruling regime - represented a "terrible loss for Lebanon, the Lebanese people and for the United States."
Mr Kerry forged a relationship with Mr Chatah during several visits to Beirut during his long tenure as a US senator. "I know he was a voice of reason, responsibility and moderation," Mr Kerry said in a statement.
"His presence will be missed, but his vision for a united Lebanon, free from sectarian violence and destabilizing interference, will continue to guide our efforts," he added.
Mr Kerry said the United States government would back Lebanon as it sought to hunt down "those responsible for this heinous and cowardly attack."
Mr Kerry's statement made no reference to the conflict raging across Lebanon's border in Syria, nor to Hezbollah's support of the Syrian regime, stating only that Washington wanted to see Lebanon maintain "its sovereignty and stability."
Mr Chatah, a close advisor to former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and an outspoken critic of Syria's ruling regime and Hezbollah, was killed in a huge bomb blast in the capital.
Mr Chatah was a key figure of the Western-backed March 14 coalition, which has supported Sunni-led rebels fighting regime forces in Syria.