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Doyen of Lebanon Parliament dies at 89

PARIS -- Kazem el-Khalil, the eldest member of the Lebanese Parliament and Lebanese Liberal Party founder who vehemently opposed the presence of Palestinian guerrillas in southern Lebanon in the early 1970s, died Sunday of a heart attack at age 89, his family said.

El-Khalil's death in Paris brought the number of surviving Lebanese deputies to 70, in addition to Lebanese President Elias Hrawi and former President Amin Gemayel, out of the 99 who took office during the last elections held in 1972.

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As the doyen of the battered Lebanese Parliament, it fell to el-Khalil to preside over the election of Lebanese President Rene Moawad after a peace accord reached last year at Taif, Saudi Arabia, since the mandate of Lebanese Parliament President Hussein Husseini had expired.

Moawad subsequently was assassinated.

A follower of former President and Liberal Party leader Camille Chamoun, el-Khalil was the son of a wealthy landowning family from the southern port of Tyre. He was born in 1901.

He trained as a lawyer at Damascus University and first served as a deputy under the French mandate from 1937 to 1943. After independence he was elected as a deputy for Tyre from 1953 to 1967 before winning the last electoral contest before the civil war in 1972.

A fierce opponent of the growing Palestinian guerrilla presence in southern Lebanon in the early 1970s, el-Khalil left the south in 1973.

Since the start of Lebanon's civil war he lived in Christian east Beirut in a sprawling villa in the suburb of Hazmieh. He had three sons, including one currently serving as Lebanon's ambassador to the Netherlands.

His funeral was to be held at Damascus in accordance with el-Khalil's wish to be buried at the shrine of Sayeda Zeinab.

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