Hizbollah set to win vote in Lebanon

BEIRUT (Reuter) - The pro-Iranian Hizbollah (Party of God) is likely to control the biggest single bloc in the Lebanese parliament after scoring sweeping victories in the country's first election in 20 years. Hizbollah and its pro- Syrian allies were well ahead of their political opponents in early results yesterday after Sunday's third and final round of voting in an election boycotted by most mainstream Christians.

'The Christians should blame no one but themselves. They dropped the ball and Hizbollah picked it up,' said a Western diplomat. Diplomats said the once-politically dominant Christians had thrown away much of their power by boycotting the election in protest at the presence of Syrian troops in Beirut.

'Hizbollah and other (Muslim) groups campaigned well when the Christians gave them an opening by ruling themselves out,' the diplomat added.

Analysts said it was unlikely that a Hizbollah victory would radicalise parliament with demands for an Islamic state and the elimination of Israel, which controls a 'security corridor' in the south. 'But . . . more people have to hear their voice,' one said.

In south Lebanon, in Israel's 'security zone', four prisoners escaped from Khiam prison yesterday, but two who strayed into a minefield were recaptured, security sources said.