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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK
Lebanese MP killed in car bombing
See the aftermath of the Beirut car bombing

An anti-Syrian Lebanese MP has been killed in an apparent car bomb attack in a mainly Christian suburb of the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Antoine Ghanim, a member of the Maronite Phalange party, and at least six others died when his car exploded in the eastern Sin al-Fil district.

The blast also damaged several nearby buildings and set four cars alight.

The son of the Phalange leader Amin Gemayel, Pierre Gemayel, was shot dead by gunmen in November 2006.

Five other high-profile anti-Syrian Lebanese figures have been killed since the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005.

The Syrian government has denied any involvement in the killings.

Tensions are definitely high, and I would say there is a mix of determination by the Lebanese, both Christian and Muslim alike, not to be intimidated by acts of violence
Theodore Mangrove, Beirut

"This criminal act targeted the attempts and efforts made by Syria and others to achieve Lebanese national understanding," said a statement published by state news agency Sana after Mr Ghanim's death.

The attack has also been criticised by the US, the UK, the EU, France and Italy.

The White House said it fitted a pattern of assassinations and attempted assassinations in Lebanon.

Political deadlock

The large car bomb exploded in late afternoon near the al-Hayik roundabout in Sin el-Fil.

ANTOINE GHANIM
Antoine Ghanim
Anti-Syrian member of Lebanese parliament
64-year-old lawyer
Member of Lebanon's Maronite Christian Phalange party
Elected deputy in 2000
Re-elected in 2005

Local television stations soon broadcast pictures of rescuers dragging charred bodies from the scene of the blast.

Several seriously injured and burnt people were also taken away by ambulances.

Reports said Mr Ghanim had removed his parliamentary number plate and put it in the back of the car in an attempt to reduce his profile.

Mr Ghanim was a member of the governing 14 March Movement and his death has reduced the bloc's majority in the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies to just two.

Map

It also comes less than a week before Lebanese MPs are scheduled to meet to elect a new president. Under Lebanon's sectarian political system, the post is reserved for a Maronite Christian.

The term of current President Emile Lahoud was extended to 2007, worsening pro- and anti-Syrian divisions, which were exacerbated in February 2005 by the killing of Rafik Hariri.

The anti-Syrian 14 March Movement won power in legislative elections held soon after Syria withdrew its troops after 29 years.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says that despite the continuing deadlock between pro- and anti-Syrian factions in parliament, there had been signs of moderation and a will for dialogue between the two sides ahead of the vote.

Tensions are now bound to rise, our correspondent says.

In July, a Muslim member of the movement, Walid Eido, was among at least 10 people killed in an explosion in Beirut's Manara neighbourhood.




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The aftermath of the bombing






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