Lebanon prepares to bury slain MP

Large turnout of mourners expected at funeral of Antoine Ghanem in Beirut.

Ghanem and five other people died in a bomb blast in Beirut [AP]
Ghanem and five other people died in a bomb blast in Beirut [AP]

Ghanem’s killing has stirred fears of more political instability in the country.
Determined bloc
But the majority bloc in Lebanon’s government has insisted that the forthcoming vote to elect a new president will not be derailed by the assassination of Ghanem, who belonged to the Phalange party allied to the anti-Syrian March 14 bloc.


Deaths feed mutual
distrust in Lebanon

“We do not fear terrorism and this will not break our will. It will only reinforce our determination to prevent the terrorists from succeeding,” Ghazi Aridi, Lebanon’s information minister, said.

Ghanem is the eighth anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated in the last three years since the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former prime minister killed by a car bomb in early 2005.
Members of the March 14 coalition have called on Lebanese people to publicly show their disapproval of the assassination.
Relations strained

Ghanem’s assassination came as Lebanese deputies were beginning preparations to elect a successor to Emile Lahoud, Lebanon’s president and a pro-Syrian figure.


The latest attack has been blamed on neighbouring Syria, but Damascus has denied any involvement, saying the bombing was a “criminal act” aimed at undermining efforts at a rapprochement with Lebanon.
Relations between parties within the March 14 bloc and Syria have remained poor since Damascus pulled its troops and security forces out of Lebanon in April 2005.
The evacuation of Syrian forces came two months after the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister and a critic of Syria.
Hezbollah, the main party in Lebanon’s pro-Syrian opposition, said the assassination was “a blow to the country’s security and stability as well as any attempt at reconciliation”.

Bombing condemned


The United Nations and several foreign governments have condemned the car bombing.


Ghanem is the eighth critic of Syria to be 
assassinated in three years [EPA]

“The security council reiterates its condemnation of all targeted assassinations of Lebanese leaders … and demands an immediate end of the use of intimidation and violence against the representatives of the Lebanese people and institutions,” the UN Security Council said in a non-binding statement which was approved by all 15 members.


Fouad Siniora, Lebanon’s prime minister, has urged the UN to investigate Ghanem’s murder as part of its investigation into similar murders of anti-Syrian figures.


Syria blamed


Members of the March 14 bloc have accused Syria of being behind a string of political assassinations and attacks since October 2004.


The March 14 bloc of parties is widely considered to be against any Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs. 


The blast is the latest in a string of attacks
blamed on Syria and their proxies [AFP]

Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Beirut, said the March 14 bloc was preparing to issue a statement blaming Syria.


The Lebanese government announced a period of mourning in the aftermath of Ghanem’s murder.


The education ministry said all schools and universities will remain closed until Friday.


Fearing for his life, Ghanem had fled into exile following the assassination in June of Walid Eido, another anti-Syrian MP from the March 14 bloc, and only returned to Lebanon on Sunday.


Ghanem’s death has reduced the bloc’s majority in parliament to 68 members out of the 127-member house, with numbers set to play a key role in the presidential vote.


“This is an attack aimed at sabotaging all efforts to reach a solution to the current political crisis,” Butros Harb, an MP and presidential candidate, said.


“You cannot separate this killing from the presidential election.”


Conspiracy alleged
Wael Abu Faour, a Druze MP, said on Wednesday: “Syria wants to prevent the majority from remaining a majority by assassinating its members.
“Syria wants to prevent the majority from electing a president from among its ranks.”
Nayla Moawad, the Lebanese minister of social affairs, told Al Jazeera: “It is clearly an attempt to diminish the number of members of parliament from the majority and of the March 14 Forces.
“It proves that there is a mainstream, led by Iran and Syria, against Lebanese sovereignty.
“It is the end of any dialogue. We will not dialogue with murderers and we will not dialogue on the blood of our martyrs.”

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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