Blast Rocks Lebanon; One Dead

The interior minister said Saturday that Lebanese demanding national unity in recent weeks will not be cowed by the overnight bombing that ravaged a shopping area in a Christian city north of Beirut (search), killing a Sri Lankan woman and wounding two dozen.

President Emile Lahoud (search) also condemned the attack next to a church and a Christian religious radio station and linked it to political developments expected on Saturday. He was apparently referring to the return of Lebanon's most prominent anti-Syrian politician, Michel Aoun (search), from 14 years' exile in France and Parliament's expected discussion of a divisive election law.

Parliament is set to convene later Saturday to hear a message from Lahoud urging lawmakers to craft an election law acceptable to all factions. Parliamentary elections are supposed to start May 29 and be held over four consecutive Sundays.

Late Friday's explosion near the main square of picturesque Christian port city of Jounieh (search), 15 kilometers (10 miles) north of Beirut, killed a Sri Lankan woman, the state-run news agency and a leading TV station said. Police reported only two dozen injuries, half of them light from flying glass.

The blast shattered windows and started a shop fire. It also shook the nearby Maronite Catholic church at the entrance to the old souk, or market, and the office of Sawt al-Mahabba, a Christian religious radio station. The station had aired live broadcasts early Friday of a sit-in by relatives of Lebanese prisoners held in Syrian jails.

Station manager Father Fadi Thabet said he was not sure whether the station was deliberately targeted.

Interior Minister Hassan Sabei (search), who inspected the explosion scene, denounced the bombing in comments to reporters early Saturday.

"I say to those criminals that they will not stop the Lebanese people from forging ahead with the journey that they started in March 14," he said, referring to a huge anti-Syrian demonstration that called for end to 29 years of Syrian dominance.

Syrian military and intelligence forces, long dominant in Lebanon, completed their withdrawal from this country on April 26 under intense United Nations and U.S. pressure, which intensified following the Feb. 14 assassination for former premier Rafik Hariri.

Opposition legislator Ghassan Moukheiber (search) alleged joint Lebanese-Syrian security agencies were still operating here despite the withdrawal of some of pro-Syrian chiefs and Syrian soldiers. But Sabei, the interior minister, said he could not level accusations until the investigation finished.

Police officials estimated the Jounieh bomb comprised 25 kilograms (55 pounds) and was placed in a suitcase under a car on the street.

The explosion broke a lull of several weeks following a spate of bombings of commercial areas in Christian districts and strongholds of opponents of Syria's influence here. Bombings in March and early April killed three people and injured 24.

Lebanon has been in political turmoil since the massive bombing that killed Hariri and 20 others. Lebanese Muslims and Christians have since united in mass protests against Syria and pro-Syrian Lebanese politicians, who many here have linked to Hariri's death. A new Lebanese government was installed last month and pro-Syrian security chiefs have been removed. But the opposition has complained that the Syrians still continue to wield involve.