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Both Sides Claim Victory in Key Lebanese Parliament Race


Two main political parties in Lebanon are both claiming victory in Sunday's election to fill two empty parliament seats.

Tens of thousands of voters cast ballots for candidates vying to fill the spots of two assassinated anti-Syrian members of parliament.

The most closely contested race, at Metn, northeast of Beirut in Lebanon's Christian heartland, was a key test of strength between the country's two Maronite Christian camps.

Opposition leader Michel Aoun says his candidate, Kamil Khoury, narrowly beat out former President Amin Gemayel of the ruling coalition, whose son, Pierre, had held the seat until he was gunned down in November. The elder Gemayel says that he, in fact, is the victor.

Officials say no vote count will be announced until all ballots are tallied.

Voters in Beirut also were choosing a successor Sunday to the late Walid Eido, a Sunni Muslim killed by a car bomb in June. A pro-government candidate faced no serious opposition.

Eido's death reduced Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's parliamentary majority to just four seats, intensifying Lebanon's political crisis. Five pro-Syrian Cabinet ministers resigned last November after Prime Minister Siniora refused to give the pro-Syrian opposition veto power over government decisions.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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