Thousands attend Beirut funeral

 

Some 2,500 mourners chanted anti-Syrian slogans today at the funeral of a Lebanese legislator killed in a car bomb attack.

Walid Eido was the seventh anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated since February 2005 when former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri was killed in a suicide truck bombing.

Allies of Mr Eido blamed his killing on Damascus and said it was Syria's response to the establishment of a UN-backed court to try suspects in the Hariri attack.

There was no Syrian comment, but a UN envoy visiting Damascus said after talks with officials that Syria condemned yesterday's bombing near a Beirut beach club in which Mr Eido, his eldest son, two bodyguards and six passers-by were killed.

"These accusations lack all credibility. The Syrians are not going to respond every time the finger is pointed without any basis at Damascus," a source close to the Syrian government said.

As the funeral procession moved slowly through the streets of Beirut, mourners shouted slogans against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ally, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.

Mr Eido, a Sunni Muslim, belonged to the majority anti-Syrian parliamentary bloc led by Mr Hariri's son, Saad al-Hariri, which controls the government.

"I tell the criminals that, God willing, you will be punished and dragged to jail like lowlifes," Mr Hariri told the funeral crowd.

Businesses, banks and schools were shut in Beirut and elsewhere as Lebanese observed a national day of mourning.