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Lebanon Begins 3 Days of Mourning for Slain Anti-Syrian Politician


Mourners in Lebanon have begun to pay last respects to anti-Syrian Cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel, who was gunned down in a Beirut suburb Tuesday.

Crowds gathered Wednesday in Gemayel's native village of Bikfaya, where the coffin carrying the body of the 34-year-old industry minister was taken to his family home.

The attackers ambushed the Christian politician in his vehicle Tuesday.

Lebanon began three days of mourning Wednesday. Independence Day celebrations scheduled for Wednesday have been canceled. Gemayel's funeral is to be held Thursday.

The killing sparked widespread condemnation. The United States called it an act of terrorism and intimidation against Lebanon's elected government. Lebanese leaders have urged calm.

The White House Wednesday said President Bush phoned Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and pledged to support Lebanese independence from, what the White House called, the encroachments of Iran and Syria.

Anti-Syrian leaders in Lebanon are blaming Syria for Gemayel's assassination.

Prime Minister Siniora said Tuesday that the country will not be intimidated. Gemayel's father Amin, a former president of Lebanon, urged restraint as protesters took to the streets in parts of Beirut. President Bush also phoned Amin.

Gemayel is the latest anti-Syrian politician to be assassinated in Lebanon in the past two years. Syria has denied any role in any of the killings.

Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council approved plans for a special international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A U.N. inquiry has implicated Syrian officials in that killing.

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