WASHINGTON (AFP) – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice  on Friday joined fellow US diplomats in marking the 25th anniversary of the bombing at the US embassy Beirut which killed 52 people on April 18, 1983. "Even when the tragedy of April 18 was followed by further attacks on our Marine barracks later that year, on our embassy annex in 1984, and still others beyond that, the terrorists never broke our will," Rice said during a ceremony at the State Department. "It is in continuing to champion the cause of a democratic Lebanon  that we pay greatest honor to those who died and those who suffered on that day." The attack by the Islamic Jihad Organization, which US officials have said was a forerunner of Hezbollah  the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shiite militia, was at the time the deadliest attack ever on a US diplomatic mission.

Rice used the commemoration to hint at Washington’s accusations of interference by Syria into the affairs of neighboring Lebanon, with politicians in Beirut"afraid for their very lives" as the embattled government remains locked in a long-running standoff with the opposition.  With "fellow members of parliament, journalists and, of course, Prime Minister rafiq Hariri… gunned down in the streets or claimed by terrorist bombs, who can blame them?" the top US diplomat said.

This should be an unacceptable situation to all nations and it is certainly unacceptable to the United States."

Syria has been implicated in Hariri’s February 2005 assassination but has denied involvement.

The anniversary was also marked Friday at the embassy in Beirut, where US officials welcomed survivors and family members of the 17 American and 35 Lebanese victims.