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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebanon Mourns Politician Killed in Bombing

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Lebanon mourned on Thursday an anti-Syrian member of the parliament whose assassination plunged the country deeper into crisis and threatened to derail efforts to elect a new president.

Banks and schools closed a day after a car bomb killed Christian Phalange Party lawmaker Antoine Ghanem and seven other people in Beirut in the latest in a series of attacks on opponents of Damascus.

Ghanem was the seventh anti-Syrian figure killed since the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Ghanem's allies were quick to blame Syria for the latest bombing, which Damascus condemned.

His death cut the anti-Syrian coalition to 68 in the 128-seat parliament -- only three above an absolute majority of 65, whittling away at its leverage in the presidential election.

The latest bloodshed drew international condemnation, with U.S. President George W. Bush, the United Nations and the European Union expressing horror at Ghanem's slaying.

Lebanese newspapers and politicians said the killing had set back efforts to reach a deal on a consensus candidate to replace pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term ends in November.

The parliament is due to meet on Sept. 25 to elect the new president, but the session will not go ahead without a deal between the anti-Syrian governing coalition and opposition.

Government ministers affirmed their "commitment to holding the presidential elections on time," the Lebanese information minister said Thursday.

Agreeing on a new president is seen as a step toward ending Lebanon's worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. Efforts to solve the conflict have been complicated by the rivals' ties to competing regional powers.