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Blast In Lebanon Kills Top Army Officer

Blast in Lebanon Kills Top Army Officer

A senior Lebanese army officer and three other people have been killed in an explosion in a Christian town on the outskirts of Beirut.

A military statement said Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj, head of military operations, and a number of his bodyguards were killed in the Wednesday morning blast in Baabda. More than 10 others were wounded.

The military did not say what caused the explosion, which set several vehicles on fire and also damaged several nearby buildings.

General Hajj played a leading role in the army offensive against al-Qaida-inspired militants at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp earlier this year. He has been mentioned as a possible successor to army General Michel Suleiman, who is poised to be elected president.

General Suleiman is viewed as a neutral candidate who could resolve the conflict between the Western-backed government and the pro-Syrian opposition.

However, a parliamentary vote to elect a new president has been postponed eight times as rival political leaders remain divided on several issues, including how to amend the constitution to enable the army chief to take the office of the president.

Parliament speaker Nabih Berri has set December 17 as the new date for the vote.

Lebanon has been without a president since November 23, when pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud stepped down at the end of his term.


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