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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 June, 2005, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Hundreds mourn Beirut journalist
Funeral procession in Beirut
The coffin was taken from Martyrs' Square to a Greek Orthodox church
Hundreds of people have attended the funeral in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, of an anti-Syrian journalist killed by a car bomb on Thursday.

Mourners threw rose petals as the coffin of Samir Qasir, draped in a Lebanese flag, passed by.

Opposition politicians, who called for a massive turnout at the funeral, have accused Syria of involvement - a charge Damascus angrily rejects.

In April, Syria ended its 29-year military presence amid global pressure.

Colleagues of Mr Qasir carried his coffin from the building housing the al-Nahar newspaper in Martyrs' Square, where he had delivered a number of speeches to anti-Syrian protesters since February.

A large portrait of the journalist, 45, was hoisted on to the facade of the building.

Wreath

The procession was led by Mr Qasir's widow, Giselle Khuri, a talk-show host on al-Arabiya television, and influential Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

Mourners in Beirut
Many in Lebanon praised Qasir as a martyr of free speech

The coffin was taken to a nearby Greek Orthodox church for the funeral ceremony.

Ambassadors of the US, European Union, France and Britain attended the Mass.

He was buried at St Mitr cemetery, a few hundred metres from where he was killed.

On the way to the church, the procession passed the burial site of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister who was assassinated in February.

That killing plunged the country into its worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 war, prompting massive demonstrations and international pressure that led Syria to end its military presence in Lebanon.

Elections

Mr Qasir's killing has now further increased pressure on pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud.

The opposition called on Mr Lahoud to resign over the killing, which he has denounced.

Opposition leader Elias Atallah said a wreath would be laid that "clearly points to the direct responsibility of this security regime".

A government source in Damascus has said the opposition's accusations reflect "pre-determined anti-Syrian stances".

Lebanon is undertaking a lengthy parliamentary election process due to end on 19 June.

The opposition hopes the polls will end what it sees as Damascus' control of the assembly.

Mr Qasir, a front-page columnist for al-Nahar, died instantly in his car in the blast outside his home in the Ashrafiyeh district.

On Friday, about 200 journalists and politicians gathered for a silent tribute to Mr Qasir in Martyrs' Square.


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