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Two pro-government officials shot dead in Lebanon

BEIRUT, April 20 (Reuters) - Gunmen shot dead two local officials of a Christian party that is a member of Lebanon's ruling anti-Syrian coalition in eastern Lebanon on Sunday, security sources said.

They said other three people, all members of the Phalange Party, were wounded in the shooting in the Christian town of Zahle in the Bekaa Valley. The two dead were identified as Nasri Marouni and Salim Assi.

It was not immediately clear who shot at the Phalange members, who had just opened a new party office in Zahle. Christian factions in the Hezbollah-led opposition have wide support in the town.

Lebanese troops were deployed in Zahle and began a search for the gunmen, the security sources said.

Lebanon has been embroiled in its worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

A 17-month-old standoff between the anti-Syrian coalition, backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States, and the opposition led by Hezbollah and supported by Syria and Iran, has left Lebanon without a president since November.

The political tension has several times spilled over into street violence in which more than 20 people have been killed and 400 wounded. (Writing by Nadim Ladki; editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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