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Funeral Held in Beirut for Slain Anti-Syrian Legislator

21 September 2007

Lebanon's top political leaders and hundreds of ordinary citizens turned out for the funeral Friday, of slain Christian lawmaker Antoine Ghanem. Edward Yeranian reports from Beirut.

Church bells tolled as thick clusters of mourners crowded the streets leading to the Sacred Heart church, where funeral services were held to honor slain Christian member of parliament Antoine Ghanem.

Ghanem died Wednesday after a car bomb targeting his vehicle exploded during rush hour traffic in an East Beirut suburb, killing him and six others.

Ghanim's coffin, draped with the flags of Lebanon, was carried into the church as young supporters waved flags of his Phalange political party.

Family members, including his widow and daughter, greeted a long-line of celebrities and politicians come to pay their last respects.

Lebanon's top leaders, including pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud were present for the service, alongside former President Amine Gemayel, Druze Leader Walid Jumblatt, Christian Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and pro-government coalition leader Sa'ad Hariri.

Former president Gemayel, whose party the Ghanem belonged to, delivered the eulogy saying that Lebanon's upcoming presidential elections will proceed next week, as scheduled.

Every martyr that falls among us, he said, is a force propelling us forward, to a more prosperous future, but the time has come to get rid of our fear for one another because fear of outsiders unites a people, but fear amongst ourselves divides us.

Schools, universities, stores, and many government offices were closed.

Security remains extremely tight along arteries leading to the funeral and vehicles were towed from busy commercial districts to prevent the occurrence of another car bomb.

Ghanem was a member of the pro-government coalition locked in a power struggle with opposition groups backed by Syria.

Supporters of the embattled pro-government coalition were angry, accusing Syria of killing Ghanem to make way for their own candidate for president.

Syria has denies the charges. Pro-Syrian Parliament speaker Nabih Berri insists that parliament will meet as scheduled this Tuesday, despite the assassination, to chose a new president for Lebanon.

Ghanem was the fourth member of parliament and eighth prominent anti-Syrian figure to be killed in Lebanon in the last two years. Syria has denied involvement in any of the attacks.

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