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Hundreds Mourn Slain Anti-Syrian Journalist in Lebanon

In Lebanon, mourners gathered in Beirut for the funeral of a prominent journalist killed in a car bombing on Thursday, amid calls for an international investigation of his murder.

The casket of journalist Samir Kassir, draped in a Lebanese flag, was carried from the headquarters of An Nahar newspaper, where to worked, through the streets of downtown Beirut.

Mourners wearing red and white, the colors of the Lebanese flag and carrying pictures of Mr. Kassir, applaud as the casket was carried past the parliament building to a Greek Orthodox church.

Several opposition leaders were among those attending, including Saad Hariri, the son of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who died in a bombing in February, as well as the outspoken leader of the Druze, Walid Jumblatt.

Mr. Kassir wrote a front-page column for An Nahar, a leading daily newspaper, and often spoke harshly about the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, which ended in April after three decades.

The general manager of An Nahar and recently elected member of parliament, Gibran Tueni, speaking to VOA at the funeral, said he suspected Syria was behind the bombing. Damascus denies the accusation.

"I think this is an assassination, which is targeting all of Lebanon; free Lebanon, free journalists and free people," Mr. Tueni said. "And I think this is, you know Samir Kassir, is at the base of the Independence '05, and I think that Syrians are going to still try just to get rid of our independence."

The Independence 05 movement was initially organized to force Syrian troops to leave Lebanon. Although the United Nations has confirmed they have left, there is strong speculation that their intelligence forces are still operating in Lebanon.

The United States has asked the United Nations Security Council to expand its investigation into the death of former Prime Minister Hariri to include Mr. Kassir's murder.

After the assassination of Mr. Kassir, opposition parties are calling for pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud to step down from office.

The assassination comes in the midst of parliamentary elections. The second stage of the four-part poll is scheduled for Sunday.