"A major incident in downtown Beirut will shake the area for a long time," Michel Hayek, 38, told viewers.

Six weeks later, on 14 February 2005 former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri was killed in a massive car bomb assassination near the St Georges hotel on the Beirut seafront. Twenty-two others were killed and 131 wounded.

The killing resulted in a political upheaval that saw the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon.
 
Hayek also forecast local media personalities would come under attack.

Accuracy

Within months, two Lebanese journalists were assassinated in car bomb attacks while a third was seriously maimed and wounded.

And Hayek went so far as to name one of the journalists, Gebran Tueni, who was killed in a car bomb attack on 12 December. 
 

Hayek predicted that journalist
Gebran Tueni would be attacked

As a result of Hayek's accuracy, some Lebanese, unnerved by the string of assassinations, bombings and general political uncertainty looming over their country, have been paying close attention to what he says.
 
Last month, rumours that Hayek had predicted a large bomb attack in Beirut's central shopping area transformed Beirut into a ghost town.
 
"Michel Hayek's star predictions transform the heart of Beirut into a desert at high noon," said the front page of pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat on 18 December.
 
Calling it quits

Although Hayek denies he made such a prediction he has been under attack by angry traders and some have even threatened to sue him for ruining their pre-Christmas business. 

Now, tired of the pressure and wary of causing panic among Lebanese, he has hung up his crystal ball and declined to make any forecasts for 2006.
 
"I have stopped my predictions," Hayek told Aljazeera.net. "I don't want my name associated with bad things."
 
Hayek says he began making forecasts when he was seven-years old and later gained notoriety after he predicted that the US Challenger space shuttle would crash and Amin Gemayel, the former Lebanese president, would rise to power. 
 

"I have stopped my predictions. I don't want my name associated with bad things"

Michel Hayek,
Lebanese clairvoyant

Although he rarely offers private sessions, Hayek says he has been able to make a living from his skills by working as a consultant for companies in Europe and the US.
 
But the events of the past year have clearly upset him.
 
"People don't understand. I don't make things [up], I only feel things," he says.
 
Hayek says he even warned some of the politicians and journalists who were later killed.
 
"I saw it twice. Once when it came to me and once when it happened. It was like someone stabbed me in the heart," Hayek says.
 
Sceptics doubt veracity

But despite Hayek's apparent uncanny ability to predict events, debate between believers and sceptics remains healthy. 
 
Rami Rajeh, a 27-year-old businessman, says: "I am a non-believer.

"I think events are a result of interactions and reactions. You can't predict those... Maybe human beings can be predictable but it's not depending on [star] constellations."

"I believe in God. It was born with me. It's nothing to do with spiritual things. It's vibes like a radio"

Michel Hayek,
Lebanese clairvoyant

Others are strong believers and say Hayek's work has deep roots in Lebanese society.
 
Nazha Merhebi, a designer, says: "I think he is telling the truth. If 14 or 16 of the things happened last year I can understand why he doesn't want to say anything.

"I think it's engraved in our society. If you go back to our history, they always believed in the stars and what is going to happen and trying to guess what will happen."

Both palmistry and astrology are thought to have originated with the Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians in the Middle East.

Religious edicts

But regardless of fortune-telling's roots in Lebanese culture, Hayek's talents have found few supporters among Lebanon's powerful religious leaders.
 
Islam forbids such predictions. According to the Quran, fortune-telling (ilm al-ghaib - knowledge of what is absent) is something only God can impart to humanity.

Several Muslim leaders have issued fatwas (religious edicts) against fortune-tellers.

Shaikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, a prominent Saudi scholar, recently said: "Muslims should beware of those charlatans."

Many Christian clerics also take a dim view of fortune-telling. 
 
In spite of that, Hayek says he is not contravening any religious beliefs.
 
"I believe in God," Hayek says.
 
"It was born with me. It's nothing to do with spiritual things. It's vibes like a radio," he said of his psychic abilities.