BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 17 -- Leader of the Christian Phalange Party George Saadeh has died after a long illness at the age of 68. Saadeh, a former deputy and minister, died today at his home in Beirut after more than a yearlong battle against cancer. Phalange Vice President Munir al-Hajj said Saadeh will be buried at his hometown village of Chabtine in the northern district of Batroun on Thursday. A Phalange source said Saadeh's 'health deteriorated six months ago. ' The burial ceremony will be attended by representatives of Lebanese President Elias Hrawi, House Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and other personalities. Hrawi decided to grant Saadeh the Order of Cedars. Saadeh, a Christian Maronite, was elected president of the Phalange Party in 1986 and remained in his post until his death today. He first joined the party in 1945 and quickly rose in the ranks, representing the Phalange in local affairs and regional and international conferences. He attended the meetings for national dialogue and reconciliation held in Switzerland in 1984 between Lebanon's warring factions in an attempt to end the country's civil war that broke out in 1975. He was then personal adviser to the party then-lifelong president Pierre Gemayel, who died in August 1984. Saadeh also participated and played an effective role at the 1989 meetings, which were held in the Saudi resort of Taef and resulted in a national reconciliation accord that ended the Lebanese civil war. He was a member of Parliament from 1968 to 1992.
He was appointed minister of planning in 1972, minister of public works and transport two years later and minister of telecommunications from 1989 to 1992. Saadeh, born in 1930, holds a Ph.D in literature and Semitic languages, in addition to a law degree. He is married to Lily al-Khazen and has three children. The Phalange Party was established by Pierre Gemayel in 1937 along the lines of youth groups he had visisted in Nazi Germany and that had impressed him with their organization and civic ardor. The party emerged as the most powerful Christian group and a key player in the Lebanese 1975-90 civil war. ---
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