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Lebanese lawmaker killed in explosion
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Lebanese pro-government lawmaker Antoine Ghanem was assassinated in a powerful explosion that ripped through his car in eastern Beirut on Wednesday, six days before a scheduled parliament session to elect a new president.


A 40-kg strong car bomb explosion shattered Ghanem's black Chevrolet Sedan as it drove in Sin el-Fil district, east of Beirut, killing him and eight others, local Naharnet news website reported.


Tongues of flame shot up from the wreckage of Ghanem's car and at least eight other vehicles as firefighters combated the blaze and ambulances evacuated at least 47 wounded to nearby hospitals, the report added.


The 64-year-old Ghanem is a member of Lebanese parliament belonging to the pro-government Christian Phalange Party, the same party which assassinated Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel belonged to.


After its meeting on Wednesday evening, the Phalange Party asked for a general strike on Thursday to mourn Ghanem and announced that his funeral will be held on Friday.


The explosion took place just six days before parliament is due to meet on September 25 to elect a new head of state to replace the pro-Syrian incumbent President Emile Lahoud, whose mandate expires on November 23.



The assassination, which was condemned by various factions, rose wide worry about the upcoming presidential election and the current political crisis in Lebanon.


The presidential vote has caused widespread concern among the Lebanese, fearing further disarrays and possible eruption of violence if no successor is elected before Lahoud's term ends.


Lebanon is facing its most serious political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war, with the government led by Prime Minister Fouad Seniora and the Hezbollah-led opposition locked in a fierce power struggle.


In mid November last year, Lebanon plunged into political deadlock when six pro-Syrian ministers resigned from the government after the breakdown of talks over giving the opposition alliance more authority.


Then the Lebanese opposition alliance launched an open-ended sit-in in downtown Beirut from December to topple the Senior a government.


The opposition declared the anti-Syrian cabinet illegitimate, demanding early parliamentary elections and a new electoral law.


The Seniora government, backed by the March 14 parliamentary majority coalition, had rejected such calls and accused the Hezbollah-led protest of trying to obstruct the creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.



The country has been rocked by a series of blasts, which started with the assassination attempt against Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade on October 1, 2004. The latest was the killing of another pro-government lawmaker Walid Eido in June.


(Xinhua News Agency September 20, 2007)

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