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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 16:39 GMT
Obituary: Pierre Gemayel
By Martin Asser
BBC News

Pierre (2nd left) greets his returning father at Beirut airport in 2000
Gemayels have been at the centre of Lebanese politics since the 1930s
Pierre Gemayel was a scion of one of Lebanon's most prominent Christian political dynasties - although he himself never touched the peaks of power and influence reached by his forebears.

But he will be remembered as the first serving government minister to be slain in a series of political assassinations that have rocked Lebanon since the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.

The name Gemayel is inextricably linked to the rightwing Maronite Christian party, the Phalange, founded by his grandfather (also named Pierre) in 1936 and one of the main players in the bloody civil war that gripped Lebanon through the 1970s and 1980s.

Pierre Gemayel: Born 1972
Grandson, nephew and son of past Phalange party leaders
Party founded on Fascist lines in 1930s
Support mainly from Maronite Christian minority

The Phalange has a controversial legacy from the war, during which it was allied to Israel and struggled to maintain the Maronite Christians' domination of the Lebanese political scene.

The biggest blow to the party came in 1982 with the assassination of Pierre's charismatic son and successor Bashir Gemayel, shortly after he had been elected Lebanese president.

Bashir's more consensus-minded brother Amin became president and the party fell under Syrian influence.

At the end of his term in office in 1988, Amin took his family - including Pierre Jr - into self-imposed exile, hoping it would help heal the divisions existing at that time between the Lebanon's various factions.

Power struggle

From France, Switzerland and the US, the former president worked to support the growing movement to end Syria's military and political control of Lebanon, a hang-over from the civil war when Syrian forces came in (at the Phalange's request) to impose peace.

He returned in 2000 and the same year his politically inexperienced son Pierre stood for and was elected to parliament on an anti-Syrian platform.

Pierre Jr became industry minister after the victory of anti-Syrian factions in the elections of 2005, which followed the assassination of popular former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

His death came as the anti-Syria, pro-Western majority in the government was locked in a power struggle with the militant Hezbollah movement and its allies.

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