Hariri coalition claims victory in Lebanon vote - Middle East - World - The Times of India BEIRUT: A US-backed coalition in Lebanon claimed victory on Monday over an alliance headed by the fundamentalist Shiite militant group Hezbollah after a fiercely-contested election. "This is a big day in the history of democratic Lebanon," a triumphant Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian grouping known as March 14, told cheering supporters at a rally after Sunday's vote. "Congratulations to you, congratulations to freedom, congratulations to democracy," said Hariri, the son of slain former billionaire prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Hariri's coalition -- which held the majority in the old parliament -- was set to win 70 seats in the new 128-seat assembly against 58 for Hezbollah and its Christian and Shiite allies, according to his Future television station. Celebratory gunfire erupted and fireworks exploded into the sky as jubilant Hariri supporters took to the streets after the election, whose outcome is being closely watched by Lebanon's neighbours and the international community. But in a sign of the possible danger ahead, police and soldiers were out in force in sensitive areas for fear of fighting between rivals in a war-scarred country that remains deeply divided along sectarian lines. Analysts said the winning factions would have to work with their rivals to form a government and ensure the nation is not plunged into a new cycle of political instability and violence.