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March 14th Antoine Ghanem Bombed Out Of Presidential Elections

Retrieved from Naharnet on September 19, 2007

 Phalangist MP Antoine Ghanem was assassinated by a powerful blast that ripped through his car in east Beirut's Sin el-Fil suburb Wednesday in what appears to be bloody scheme to strip the March 14 coalition of its parliamentary majority just six days before a scheduled session to elect a new president.

 A 40-kilogram strong car bomb explosion shattered Ghanem's black Chevrolet Sedan as it drove in the plush suburb, killing him and eight other people, including his driver and an unidentified person who was sitting next to the slain MP on the back seat of the vehicle. 

 Tongues of flame shot up from the wreckage of Ghanem's car and at least eight other vehicles as fire fighters combated the blaze and ambulances evacuated at least 47 wounded people to nearby hospitals. 

 The powerful explosion, which echoed across the Lebanese capital, shattered glass windows in Sin el-Fil and the plush suburb of Horsh Tabet. 

 The crime was committed three months after a similar car bomb explosion on June 14 which claimed the life of MP Walid Eido. 

 Ghanem, 64, returned to Beirut from safe haven in Abu Dhabi two days ago.

 A Friend of the victim, speaking on condition of anonymity, quoted Ghanem as telling him Tuesday evening: "I face the threat of assassination. They want to kill me to open the door for by-elections to choose a new MP from (Michel Aoun's) Free Patriotic Movement."

 Ghanem had represented the Baabda-Aley constituency in parliament since the year 2000.

 Ghanem's constituency houses Hizbullah's stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut, where the party that is opposed to the March 14 alliance carries a sizeable influence. 

 Hizbullah that is also backed by Iran is allied with Aoun's FPM in the attempt to topple Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government and prevent the election of a new president who is not controlled by the Damascus regime of President Bashar Assad. 

 In addition to Ghanem and Eido, MP and Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, a prominent member of the Phalange Party and the March 14 alliance, was gunned down by unidentified assailants on Nov. 21. 

 By-elections held on Aug. 5 in Gemayel's Metn constituency were won by FPM candidate Camille Khoury, thus stripping the March 14 alliance of a vote in the presidential elections to choose a successor to Syrian -Backed President Emile Lahoud.

 Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri had summoned Parliament to elect a head of state on Sept. 25.

 Lahoud's extended term expires on Nov. 24.