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LEBANON - Jun 6 - Election Victory Bolsters Hizbollah.

Hizbollah, Lebanon's Shiite Islamist party, claims its strong showing in the second round of the country's staggered parliamentary elections would strengthen its case to resist international calls to disarm. Hizbollah and the Shiite Amal movement, both backed by Syria, won all 23 seats contested on Jun 5 in south Lebanon. The region is predominantly Shiite and has been a strong supporter of Hizbollah, whose guerrilla campaign forced Israeli troops to end their occupation of a security strip in the south in 2000. The result was seen by local Lebanese newspapers and analysts as a rejection by southern voters of international demands to disarm Hizbollah, as required by UN resolution 1559. The elections come after Syria ended last month its 29-year military presence in Lebanon. Anti-Syrian political groups are expected to dominate the next parliament, reversing the balance of power in the current assembly. But Damascus could still exercise influence through its backing for Hizbollah and Amal. "They [the voters] gave a clear message to the foreigners, particularly to the Americans, that the people of Lebanon are unified over the resistance and independence", Naim Qassem, Hizbollah's second in command, said on Jun 6. The organisation still claims a resistance role, despite the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the country five years ago. The group says the UN-certified withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon is not complete, and violence periodically flares along the border. The government that will be formed after the elections will have to deal with international demands for Hizbollah's disarmament. Most political groups in Lebanon are eager to avoid a showdown and would like to find a peaceful compromise. "The Americans, the French and others will push the expanded anti-Syrian bloc in the next parliament to disarm Hizbollah. And that will lead to disaster", warned Adnan Arakji, a pro-Syrian member of parliament. The victory of Hizbollah and Amal follows an equally sweeping win in Beirut on My 29 by the anti-Syrian opposition led by son of Rafiq Hariri Saad Hariri, the murdered former premier whose killing provoked anti-Syrian protests. Hariri and his bloc swept up all 19 seats in the capital. Both set of results were in line with expectations but the last two rounds of the elections in Mount Lebanon and in the north are expected to be more competitive.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Jun 11, 2005
Words:382
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