Lebanon politician dies in blast

A03183828.jpgA member of the pro-Syrian opposition in Lebanon has been killed in a car bombing south-east of the capital, Beirut, security officials have said.

Saleh Aridi, of the Lebanese Democratic Party, was killed when a bomb exploded as he started his car’s engine in the village of Baissour.

At least three other people were injured in the blast, the army said.

It comes a day after the president announced reconciliation talks among rival factions would be held next week.

An 18-month stalemate between the Christian, Sunni Muslim and Druze governing coalition and the pro-Syrian opposition – led by Shia Islamist group Hezbollah – had brought the country to crisis point.

But both sides formed a national unity government last month, and the talks next week are aimed at narrowing their differences.

‘Bloody message’

Mr Aridi, who was in his 50s, was a top adviser to pro-Syrian Druze leader and government minister Talal Arslan. Mr Arslan is a rival of the powerful anti-Syrian Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt.

Feb 2005: Ex-PM Rafik Hariri
April 2005: MP Bassel Fleihan
June 2005: Anti-Syria journalist Samir Kassir
June 2005: Ex-Communist leader George Hawi
Dec 2005: Anti-Syria MP Gebran Tueni
Nov 2006: Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel
June 2007: Anti-Syria MP Walid Eido
Sep 2007: Anti-Syria MP Antoine Ghanim
Dec 2007: Army Gen Francois al-Hajj
Jan 2008: Police investigator Wissam Eid
Sep 2008: Pro-Syria MP Saleh Aridi

Nazih Abu Ibrahim, a party colleague of Mr Aridi, said he was killed as he got into his Mercedes in front of his home in Baissour, a village near the town of Aley, at about 2130 (1830 GMT). He was alone in his vehicle at the time.

The charge was placed under the car’s body, below the driver’s seat, and blew up as the car moved, police said. They believe it was triggered either by remote control or by a motion sensor.

No-one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but Mr Abu Ibrahim said it was “a bloody message” aimed at igniting violence between the two rival Druze factions.

There have been a series of assassinations of political figures in Lebanon since the killing of the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, but this is the first since January.

Past targets have mostly been anti-Syrian lawmakers.

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