It is feared tensions could rise in Lebanon after the killing of an anti-Syrian MP in an apparent car bomb attack. Antoine Ghanim, a member of the Maronite Phalange Party, died along with at least seven others when his car exploded in a mainly Christian area of Beirut. Ghanim was a member of the governing coalition. His death has reduced the bloc’s majority to just three and comes a week before Lebanese MPs are due to meet to elect a new president – by tradition, a Maronite Christian. The opposition has been pushing for a compromise candidate to be chosen. One political analyst said the attack was a “strong message to the anti-syrian ruling coalition not to go against the wishes of the opposition.”
Minister Marwan Hamadeh said that given such clear intelligence and technical ability, the bombing was clearly the work of Damascus: “Once more, the Syrian regime is using its terrorist skill to assassinate the MP belonging to the Lebanese Independant Movement majority.”
The EU, US and UN strongly condemned the attack. The Phalange party leader Karim Bakradouni urged the country to show its grief: “We call on all Lebanese across the whole country to go on general strike on Thursday and consider it a day of national mourning.”
Six other high-profile anti-Syrian figures have been killed in Lebanon since the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Damascus has strenuously denied any involvement in the killings.