Beirut car bomb wounds anti-Syrian lawmaker

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BEIRUT, Sep 19 (Reuters) A prominent anti-Syrian Christian Lebanese lawmaker was wounded in a car bomb attack in Beirut today that killed five people, security sources said.

The lawmaker, Antoine Ghanem of the Christian Phalange party, was among four people hurt in the explosion and appeared to be the main target of the bombing, the sources said.

Television footage showed several cars on fire and bodies being carried away from the scene of a busy commercial and residential area.

''The explosion took place in the Sin el-Fil area near the Metropolitan hotel,'' a security source said.

The explosion took place before Lebanon's parliament is supposed to convene to elect a new president next week. Lebanon has been going through its worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Beirut has been hit by a series of bomb attacks in the past two and a half years, many of them aimed at anti-Syrian politicians.

Prior to today's attack, seven anti-Syrian political figures had been killed.

In June this year, anti-Syrian lawmaker Walid Eido and nine other people died in a car bomb attack.

In February 2005, former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri was killed along with 22 other people in a massive car bomb attack.

Hariri's family says Syria was behind the killing of the former prime minister and later attacks, but Damascus denies this.

Tension has been high in Beirut, where the US-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is locked in a feud with the opposition led by Shi'ite Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria.

REUTERS GL BD2104

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