06/21/2005, 00.00
LEBANON
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Beirut: car bomb kills former communist leader

Beirut (AsiaNews) – A bomb placed under a car passenger seat this morning killed 70-year-old George Hawi, former secretary of the Lebanese communist party, known for his firm anti-Syrian opposition. The explosion went off in Wata el-Msaitbeh, a Muslim quarter in the west of the capital. Hawi was killed on the spot, however his driver, Tabit Kazzi, was saved and transported immediately to the hospital of the American University.

The presidency of the Lebanese Republic issued a statement in which it "condemned the assassination" of the ex communist leader who, during the years of the civil war, had formed part of the "national revolution" group, led by Kamal Joumblatt, father of the current Druze leader Walid Joumblatt. Walid Joumblatt condemned this "terrorist and criminal act" which "aims to shake the stability of the country only a few days after the end of the elections". He warned the country against such moves and called for the immediate dismissal of the heads of the Lebanese secret services.

Analysts suspect Syria's hand behind the assassination. An initial Syrian reaction came from Information Minister, Mahdi Daklallah, who "condemned in the name of the Syrian government this criminal act committed by enemies of Lebanon". The minister then reiterated Syria's position in favour of peace in Lebanon.

Lebanon continues to be subject to internal and external pressure following 14 February, when a car bomb killed former Lebanese premier, Rafic Hariri, in the heart of Beirut. On 2 June, another car bomb killed anti-Syrian journalist, Samir Kasir, in the Christian quarter of Achrafieh. Meanwhile, an international inquiry into Hariri's death today reported important developments: the head of the commission of inquiry, German judge Mehlis, interrogated the head of Lebanon's presidential guard, General Moustafa Hamdane, thought to be an accomplice in Hariri's assassination. Today, the commission was set to question the head of the services of internal forces, general Ali Hajj.

In protest against the escalating violence, youths of Beirut have organized a sit-in at 7pm (local time) today in the Wata El Msaitbeh quarter, the site of the fatal attack on Hawi (YH).

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