Thousands join Hawi funeral

Thousands of people have followed the funeral procession of a slain Lebanese politician whose assassination this week intensified calls for President Emile Lahoud to step down.

    Hawi also resisted Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon

    Some 10,000 people attended the funeral on Friday for George Hawi, a former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party and long-time critic of Syria's role in Lebanon, who was killed on Tuesday when a bomb exploded in his car.


    Hawi, also a leader of the national resistance to Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, was the second anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated this month. Newspaper columnist Samir Kassir was killed on 2 June in a similar attack.


    Nationalist songs and recordings of Hawi speeches blared from loudspeakers as the crowd, holding up red-white-and-green Lebanese flags and red Communist flags, walked silently behind the hearse as the cortege made its way to a church in central Beirut.


    Only sporadic chants of "Communist, Communist", were heard.


    "Lebanon is like an evergreen tree," Communist mourner Salman Ballout, 55, said. "George Hawi and others may have died, but a new generation is born to carry the message."

    Opposition blames Lahoud


    A coalition of groups that swept parliamentary elections this month after leading a campaign against Syria's military and intelligence presence in Lebanon accused Lahoud on Thursday of responsibility for political assassinations and called on him to step down.


    "George Hawi and others may have died but a new generation is born to carry the message."

    Salman Ballout,
    55-year-old Communist mourner

    The killings of Hawi and Kassir followed the 14 February assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, which sparked street protests in Lebanon and international pressure that forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in April.


    US officials have insisted that the United States is certain Syria still has intelligence agents in its tiny neighbour.


    The Lebanese opposition coalition blames the Syrian-backed security services for the bombing spree and has repeatedly called on Lahoud to quit.

    Syria has denied any involvement.

    Lahoud has condemned the deaths and said he will stay until the end of his term.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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