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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June, 2005, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Lebanon voters 'welcome change'
Saad Hariri
Saad Hariri has campaigned for an end to Syrian influence
Lebanon's main opposition anti-Syrian alliance has claimed victory in the final round of the country's four-round parliamentary elections.

The alliance's leader, Saad Hariri, said the Lebanese people had had their say and had voted for change.

Unofficial results from Sunday's polls give the bloc a majority in parliament.

A pro-Syrian leader of the group that challenged Mr Hariri in the final round of voting in northern Lebanon said: "We bow to the will of the people."

It was Lebanon's first election since the Syrian troop withdrawal this year.

HAVE YOUR SAY
What Lebanon really needs is somebody new with fresh ideas to help the Lebanese people
Justin, Jumeriah, Dubai

Damascus ended its 30-year deployment in Lebanon in response to street protests and international pressure triggered by the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the country's former prime minister and Mr Hariri's father, on 14 February.

He was killed in a bomb blast his supporters said was the work of Syria.

Syrian troops were stationed in Lebanon under the accord that ended a 15-year civil war in 1989.

Aoun challenge

"The almost final results show that the people has had its say," Mr Hariri told the AFP news agency on Monday.

RESULTS - FIRST THREE ROUNDS
Campaigning in Tripoli, Lebanon
Hariri-led alliance - 44
Aoun-led alliance - 21
Aman and Hezbollah - 35
Results so far - 100
Full parliament - 128

"It has said that it wants change and that's what we call for."

Mr Hariri's coalition needed to win 21 seats on Sunday to reach a total of 65, the majority needed to control the 128-seat parliament.

The BBC's Jim Muir says he should now find it easier to start dismantling what he calls the security state set up by the Syrians - assuming the victory is officially confirmed.

In the fourth and final round of voting, the anti-Syrian alliance faced former General Michel Aoun's group in the fight for the last 28 seats at stake in northern Lebanon.

Although Mr Aoun's forces fought against the Syrians in the civil war, his allies in the election include pro-Damascus politicians, such as former Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh.

His alliance did well in the third round of voting held in the Mount Lebanon and Bekaa valley regions, with the promise that it would tackle corruption and end sectarian policies.

It would have had to secure a quarter of the 28 seats being contested in northern Lebanon to rob Mr Hariri's alliance of a parliamentary majority - but appears not to have done so.

However, our correspondent says, Gen Aoun's block of 21 seats have established him as the most significant Christian political figure whose views will be hard to ignore.

Bitter campaign

Mr Franjieh said his party accepted the popular will.

He told a local television channel: "Even if we have lost, we are the real representatives of the Christian areas in north Lebanon."

Official results are due later on Monday.

Saad Hariri is thought to have fared well in Sunni Muslim areas, with Mr Aoun's grouping taking the Christian vote, correspondents say.

Mr Hariri's group, which includes the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and right-wing Christians, has so far secured 44 of the 100 seats polled so far in other parts of Lebanon.

The interior ministry said 49% of eligible voters turned out to cast their vote on Sunday, Reuters reports.

In earlier rounds the Amal and Hezbollah parties that have a pro-Syrian agenda won 35 seats.




BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
See celebrations on the streets in Lebanon



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