Kazem Khalil, Lebanese Christian Legislator, Dead at 89
PARIS (AP) _ Kazem Khalil, a Lebanese Moslem legislator whose home had been bombed at the start of Lebanon’s civil war, died early Sunday of a heart attack during a visit to Paris, family members said. He was 89.
Khalil had been the oldest Lebanese lawmaker, serving intermittently in the Parliament since 1937.
He had been in excellent health and on Saturday presided over a meeting of Lebanese deputies living in Paris, the family said. He was found dead by one of his daughters about 4 a.m.
A Shiite Moslem, Khalil will be buried in accordance with his will in Damascus, Syria, the family said. A memorial ceremony will be held in Beirut.
Khalil had planned to return to Beirut this week to celebrate the end of the Moslem holy month of Ramadan, the family said.
He is survived by two sons and three daughters.
Khalil served as a deputy in parliament for most of the 35 years from 1937 to 1972, when the last parliamentary elections were held. He was elected to a four-year term in 1972, but civil war broke out in 1975 between Christians and Moslems and has prevented new elections. The legislature regularly renews its mandate.
Khalil’s death reduced parliament’s membership to 69. Since war broke out, 28 members have died, five violently, and two other seats are vacant.
Born in 1901 in Tyre to a land-owning family, Khalil was considered one of the last links to Lebanon’s feudal past. He studied in Beirut as a young man and later earned a law degree from the University of Damascus.
Khalil, who saw Lebanon gain independence from France in 1943, was one of the founders of former President Camille Chamoun’s National Liberal Party and fiercely opposed the presence of armed Palestinians in Lebanon. That presence led to the 1982 Israeli invasion.
One of his homes was dynamited at the beginning of the civil war and the otherwas seized by Palestinian guerrillas. Khalil has since lived in a Christian sector of Beirut.
Khalil and other deputies met last year in Taif, Saudi Arabia, devising a new power-sharing arrangement between the country’s Christians and Moslems and empowering parliament to select a new president.
Khalil oversaw the election of Rene Moawad as president. Moawad was killed 17 days later in a bomb blast. Khalil then presided over the election of the current president, Elias Hrawi.
Christian military leader Gen. Michel Aoun denounces the Taif accords and Hrawi’s presidency, saying they legitimize the occupation of Lebanon by 40,000 Syrian troops.