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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 May, 2005, 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK
Opposition claims Beirut election
Nazek Hariri, widow of former slain Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri
Rafik Hariri's widow was among the first to vote
A leading opposition bloc in Lebanon says its candidates have won all the seats in the capital, Beirut, in a landmark parliamentary election.

Beirut voters took part in the first poll to be held for more than 30 years without Syrian troops in the country.

People in the rest of Lebanon will cast ballots over the next three Sundays.

The anti-Syrian opposition in the capital is led by Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.

Syrian troops withdrew last month, following a wave of opposition protests blaming Damascus for the killing in February. Syria denies any involvement.

Even before voting began, nine out of 12 Beirut seats had gone unchallenged to the Martyr Rafik Hariri list.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says turnout appears to have been low - especially in Christian parts of town where some regarded the vote as a foregone conclusion.

'New political reality'

Polling to choose 128 MPs will take place over the coming weeks, with seats allocated to equal numbers of Christians and Muslims.

A Lebanese man walks past electoral posters of Saad Hariri and his father, in Beirut
Anti-Syrian factions were expected to do well

Next Sunday the voting will shift to the south of the country.

The two main Shia groups, Hezbollah and Amal, have formed the Resistance, Liberation and Development list, and are expected to win most of the seats there.

Our correspondent says the main competition is likely to be within the Maronite Christian camp.

Leading Christian opposition figure Michel Aoun - who has many supporters in the north - is heading his own election list after failing to agree on a broad opposition alliance.

The election has been light on issues and heavy on horse-trading between the factions that have dominated the country's politics for decades, our correspondent says.

But the election will consolidate a new political reality largely free from Syrian interference, he says.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
What Lebanese people think about the vote



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