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Anti-Syria Leader's Funeral Draws 10,000

June 25, 2005|From Reuters

BEIRUT — Thousands of people marched Friday behind the coffin of a slain anti-Syria politician whose assassination this week intensified calls for President Emile Lahoud to resign.

About 10,000 people took part in the funeral procession for George Hawi, a former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party and a critic of Syria's role in Lebanon, who was killed Tuesday by a bomb planted in his car.

Hawi, also a leader of the national resistance to Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, was the second anti-Syria figure assassinated this month. Newspaper columnist Samir Kassir was killed June 2 in a similar attack.

U.S. officials have said they are certain that Syria still has intelligence agents in neighboring Lebanon, defying a United Nations resolution demanding that Damascus withdraw.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was quoted Friday as saying that Syria must not destabilize Lebanon, but she reportedly signaled that Iraq-style "regime change" was not appropriate for Damascus.

"Syria is not Iraq, and Iraq is not Syria," she said. "The Syrian regime is capable of changing itself, its policies and its behavior with its neighbors. This is the path we hope they will take."

Nationalist songs and recordings of Hawi speeches blared from loudspeakers as the crowd, holding Lebanese and Communist flags, walked silently as the procession headed to a church in central Beirut.

An emotional Karim Mroue, a prominent Lebanese Communist and longtime friend of Hawi, promised to continue the struggle toward "an era of democracy in Lebanon and the Arab world."

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