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Thousands Attend Beirut Funeral of Slain Syrian Critic


A funeral was held Friday in downtown Beirut for the Syria critic and former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party, who was killed in a bomb blast on Tuesday.

Thousands of supporters of the Syrian critic and former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party, George Hawi, walked through the streets to attend his funeral in downtown Beirut, just three days after Mr. Hawi was killed in a bombing.

People waved Lebanese flags with the Communist party symbol of the scythe and the hammer, and many wore t-shirts with pictures of revolutionary figure Che Guevara, as they walked to the Greek Orthodox Church in the city center where the funeral took place.

Three weeks ago, a funeral was held at the same church for journalist Samir Kassir, who was known for his anti-Syrian writing. Both men were killed in suburbs of Beirut near their homes, when car bombs were detonated by remote control. Investigations of both bombings are under way, but supporters of Mr. Hawi, like Allah Rafa, accuse Syria of being behind the assassination.

"By this murder, we lost one of the oldest and famous person. The president of this country and the military teams, they are still killing the most important political persons nowadays, and they will not stop. President Lahoud, he should leave as soon as possible, or we will have more problems, and this country will be destroy[ed]," said Mr. Rafa.

President Emile Lahoud is considered an ally of Syria by anti-Syrian groups in Lebanon. The government in Damascus has denied any role in the recent killings. The anti-Syrian opposition has also called on President Lahoud to step down from office because it says he is unable to maintain security in Beirut.

The anti-Syrian opposition is headed by Saad Hariri, whose father Rafik Hariri was also killed in a car bombing in February, and the leader of the Druze, Walid Jumblatt. Both men attended Mr. Hawi's funeral, and have expressed concern that politicians in Lebanon are being targeted.

Although the United Nations has confirmed that Syrian troops have fully withdrawn from Lebanon, the United States, France and other countries believe Syrian intelligence forces are still operating within the borders. It is an issue the new parliament will need to address when it meets for the first time on Tuesday.

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