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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
Crowds attend Lebanese MP funeral
Coffins being carried through crowds
Mr Ghanim's death has deepened the political crisis in Lebanon
Thousands of Lebanese have attended the funeral in Beirut of the anti-Syrian politician, Antoine Ghanim, who was assassinated on Wednesday.

The Lebanese government has vowed to press ahead with presidential elections to choose a successor to pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud next week.

The assassination of a number of anti-Syrian figures has reduced the pro-Western majority in parliament.

Syria has been blamed for the killings, but denies any involvement.

The funeral procession and service was also held for two bodyguards, Nouhad Ghoreib and Tony Daou, who were killed alongside Mr Ghanim.

Wife's grief

Mr Ghanim's coffin, draped with the flags of Lebanon and his Phalange political party, was carried from the hospital where it had lain to the Furn el-Shebak district, in mainly Christian east Beirut, his constituency.

As the body was moved, his grieving widow Lola cried out "Ya habibi [my love], Ya habibi."

Then as his coffin and those of the bodyguards were borne through the streets, the gathered crowds of people, many carrying flags, applauded.

The three were taken to Sacre Coeur church for the funeral service in nearby Badaro, where friends and relatives were joined by senior Lebanese politicians.

LEBANESE ASSASSINATIONS
A car set alight by the explosion in Beirut (19 September 2007)
Feb 2005: Ex-PM Rafik Hariri
April 2005: MP Bassel Fleihan
June 2005: Anti-Syria journalist Samir Kassir
June 2005: Ex-Communist leader George Hawi
Dec 2005: Anti-Syria MP Gebran Tueni
Nov 2006: Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel
June 2007: Anti-Syria MP Walid Eido
Sep 2007: Anti-Syria MP Antoine Ghanim

Banks, schools and government offices have been closed in Lebanon, as the country mourns Mr Ghanim, of the Christian Maronite Phalange party.

The education ministry said schools and universities would remain closed again on Friday.

Mr Ghanim died with at least six others in a car bombing in the mainly Christian Sin al-Fil district.

Lebanon's pro-Western government says it is determined to hold a presidential election, despite the assassination.

But the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says the situation is very uncertain and the government may find procedural difficulties in convening the required number of MPs for a vote.

MPs are due to choose a successor to pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud next week.

The killings of several anti-Syrian figures have left the government with only a slim majority, 68 out of 127 MPs.

"No one should boycott the election of the new president, or he should bear the consequence in front of the people, the nation, and history," former president Amin Gemayel told mourners at the funeral service.

His speech echoed an earlier statement from the government, saying that the killers of Mr Ghanim would not be allowed to succeed in their aims.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has called for a UN investigation into the assassination of Mr Ghanim, who had returned to Beirut just a few days before his death to take part in next week's vote.

Syria accused

The country has been mired in an ongoing political crisis, with a deadlock between pro- and anti-Syrian factions in parliament.

Lebanon President, Emile Lahoud
Parliament will attempt to elect a successor to Emile Lahoud

From 1975 until 1990, Lebanon suffered a bloody civil war in which regional powers - particularly Israel, Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organisation - used the country as a battlefield for their own conflicts.

Syrian troops moved in shortly after the war started and though they helped end the civil war, they stayed on long after the conflict and Damascus effectively became the political master of its small neighbour.

Although Syria withdrew its troops in 2005, it still exerts considerable political clout in Lebanon.

The term of the current president, pro-Syrian Mr Lahoud, was extended to 2007, worsening pro- and anti-Syrian divisions, which were exacerbated in February 2005 by the killing in a bomb attack of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Syria has denied any involvement in the killing of Mr Hariri and in this latest attack, which it described as a "criminal act" that undermined hopes for Lebanese national reconciliation.

But some Lebanese politicians were quick to blame Damascus for the blast.

Saad Hariri, son of Rafik Hariri, said responsibility lay with the "cowardly regime" of Syria.

Even pro-Syrian Mr Lahoud said it was no coincidence that someone was killed whenever there were positive developments in Lebanon.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Scenes from Antoine Ghanim's funeral



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