Lebanese leaders pledged on Thursday to press ahead with a divisive election for president, to be held in Parliament in coming days, despite the car bombing assassination of an anti-Syrian lawmaker.
Wednesday's bomb killed Antoine Ghanem, an anti-Syria lawmaker, and six others in a Christian neighbourhood of Beirut and threatened to derail efforts to bring the country's rival parties together to agree on a head of state ahead of time, before voting is set to begin next week.
Investigators were at the sight examining the remains of the blast.
At least 67 were wounded in the explosion, which severely damaged buildings and set cars ablaze during rush hour on a busy street in the Sin el-Fil neighbourhood.
Ghanem, 64, a member of the right-wing Christian Phalange party, had returned from refuge abroad only two days earlier. He was the eighth anti-Syria figure and fourth governing coalition lawmaker to be assassinated in less than three years.
On Thursday Lebanese newspapers were focused entirely on the assassination.
Samer Mrad a Beirut resident said he wants to know who is behind the attack.
" We want to see and to know that hands behind such acts and who has the interest. This is only affecting the poor and miserable people," he said.
Coalition members blamed Syria for the death, but Damascus denied involvement, as it has for the previous seven assassinations, including the 2005 bombing death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Prime Minister Fuad Saniora asked the United Nations secretary-general in a letter to add the Ghanem assassination to an international probe into Hariri's slaying and other political crimes in Lebanon.
On Wednesday Hariri's son, who now heads the main anti-Syrian alliance in the Lebanese parliament, called the perpetrators of the attack "cowardly criminal killers".
"The presidency does not belong to Saad Hariri, or to Hassan Nasrallah, or to Nabih Berri, or to Michel Aoun, or to any other party. The presidency belongs to the people of Lebanon," Saad Hariri said.
Many people fear the divisions over the presidency could lead to creation of two rival governments, a grim threat to repeat the last two years of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war when army units loyal to competing administrations battled it out.
President Emile Lahoud, an ally of Syria, is due to step down from the presidency by November 23 and government supporters see the vote as the opportunity to put one of their own in the post.
But Hezbollah and its allies have vowed to block any candidate they do not approve and they can do so by boycotting the ballots, preventing the needed two-thirds quorum of 85 votes.
If no candidate is agreed on by the time Lahoud steps down, Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and his cabinet would automatically take on executive powers.
If that happens, opposition supporters have said Lahoud might appoint a second government, a step many fear would break up the country.
Schools, universities and many businesses in Christian areas of Beirut, plus in the Mount Lebanon region north of the capital, closed on Thursday in a day of mourning and to observe a strike called by the Phalange Party.