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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 June, 2005, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Blast kills Lebanese politician
Inside of George Hawi's car after the blast
Mr Hawi was killed instantly
A veteran Lebanese politician has been killed in a bomb blast in Beirut.

George Hawi - former Communist Party leader and an opponent of Syria - died when his car blew up as he drove through the Wata Musaitbi district.

The attack follows the anti-Syrian bloc's victory in elections, the first since Syria ended a 29-year occupation.

Damascus' withdrawal followed protests and international pressure sparked by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February.

His son Saad Hariri led the bloc which secured a majority in parliamentary elections that ended on Sunday.

A UN team investigating Rafik Hariri's death is in Beirut questioning the head of Lebanon's presidential guard, Mustafa Hamdan, accused by the opposition of complicity in the assassination.

Crowds gather

Mr Hawi died at 1000 local time (0700 GMT).

The life of anybody who wants a democratic Lebanon is in danger
Walid Jumblatt
Druze leader

He was killed instantly and his driver was injured by the bomb, which was placed under the passenger seat of his Mercedes and triggered by remote control.

"The car kept going and we then saw the driver screaming and he jumped out of the window. We rushed to the car and saw Hawi in the passenger seat with his guts out," said one eyewitness quoted by Reuters news agency.

Police tried to cordon off the area, but large crowds gathered.

George Hawi
Mr Hawi has been critical of Syrian involvement in Lebanon
Prime Minister Najib Mikati expressed shock at Mr Hawi's death.

"We are stunned," he told reporters. "With every achievement by the Lebanese state, we see that there are those who want to target security and send messages of this sort."

Another senior opponent of Syria, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, said the people would have to pay a heavy price for taking the country into their own hands.

"The life of anybody who wants a democratic Lebanon is in danger," he told BBC World TV.

Syria critic

Mr Jumblatt added that it was vital for the new parliament to form a government and take control of the intelligence services.

"If you don't control the security apparatus, you have to expect anything," he said.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says the finger of suspicion over the killing will inevitably be pointed at Damascus, irrespective of whether Syria was actually behind the attack.

Mr Hawi, a Christian, was a Syrian ally for years but recently joined the anti-Syrian opposition and criticised Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs.

He is the second prominent figure to die in a car bombing in Beirut in less than three weeks.

On 2 June, journalist Samir Qasir was killed when a bomb exploded under his car.


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See the scene of the bomb blast



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