BEIRUT -- Ghassan Tueni, a veteran Lebanese journalist, politician and diplomat who headed one of the Arab world's leading newspapers, An-Nahar, for half a century, died Friday after a long illness, his family said. He was 86.

A fierce defender of Lebanese sovereignty and freedom of the press, Tueni was often referred to as the "dean of Lebanese journalism."

Born on Jan. 5, 1926, to a Greek Orthodox Christian family, Tueni studied at the American University of Beirut and went on to earn a master's degree in political science from Harvard University in 1947. He returned to Lebanon and took over An-Nahar, founded by his father.

Tueni served several terms in parliament. He was Lebanon's ambassador to the UN between 1977 and 1982 at the height of the Lebanese civil war and delivered an impassioned plea: "Let my people live!"

His bold and outspoken editorials were awaited by many in Lebanon and across the Arab world and landed him in jail on several occasions.

"Lebanon has lost one of its authentic national symbols," Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in a statement. -- AP

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