Bomb explodes in Christian area north of Beirut, killing two

A bomb killed two people in a Christian commercial center early Wednesday in a second attack in an anti-Syrian stronghold in five days. The blast raised fears of sectarian violence intended to show a need for Syria's military presence in Lebanon.

The explosion at the Alta Vista center in Jounieh, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Beirut, is said to have killed a Sri Lankan and an Indian, believed to be cleaners. It bomb wounded four other people, who were treated in hospital.

Local legislators condemned the attack. Nematallah Abi Nasr, an opposition lawmaker, called on his supporters not to be carried away by attempts to sow sectarian strife.

"Each citizen should be his own guard," Abi Nasr said.

The 45-pound (20 kilogram) bomb is thought to have been placed in a leather bag at the building's back entrance, said a Lebanese security official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. A police officer received cuts from falling debris as he was inspecting the damage in the shopping center.

Investigating magistrate Rashid Mezher told LBC-Al-Hayat television he had completed his investigation, but would not disclose any details. He said a statement would be issued later.

Early Saturday, a car-bomb exploded in a Christian suburb of Beirut, wounding nine people and causing extensive damage to an adjacent commercial and residential building.

Wednesday's explosion came hours after a demonstration by about 1,000 pro-Syrian students who marched on the U.S. Embassy, shouting "Death to America!" The students tore up a photograph of U.S. President George W. Bush and denounced what they said was Washington's interference in Lebanon.

The Bush administration has been at the fore of international demands for Syria to withdraw its remaining 10,000 troops from Lebanon in compliance with a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last year.

Syrian troops entered Lebanon, ostensibly as peace-keepers, in the second year of the 1975-90 civil war. They remained after the war, making Syria the power broker of Lebanese politics. The Beirut government and Lebanese supporters of Syria have long argued that the country needs Syrian soldiers to maintain stability.

Opposition demands for the Syrians to leave intensified after the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Leaders of the opposition accused Syria and the Lebanese government of a role in the assassination _ a charge both governments denied.

A newspaper owned by Hariri's family said Tuesday that a U.N. team which investigated the assassination would report that Lebanese authorities tampered with evidence and were negligent in their handling of the bomb blast that destroyed Hariri's motorcade and killed 17 other people.

Al-Mustaqbal newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying the U.N. investigators found the authorities had "tampered with evidence by rushing to tow away Hariri's motorcade from the scene of the crime" and had sent "a bulldozer to fill the crater and clear the road in order to open it to traffic."

The U.N. team is due to release its report to Secretary-General Kofi Annan later this week. The government says it is conducting its own investigation into the assassination.

HUSSEIN DAKROUB Associated Press

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