This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Take Michel Hayek, Lebanon's most famous psychic, whose prognostications for 2005 bore an eerie resemblance to the reality that followed.

In his once-a-year appearance on LBC TV, which airs internationally, Hayek said a huge attack in the capital would disrupt life in downtown Beirut. Six weeks later, a car bomb killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others, sparking massive protests in the downtown area that forced Syria to end its 29-year military presence in Lebanon.

He also warned that five prominent Lebanese would be targeted for assassination, including anti-Syrian lawmaker Gibran Tueni, an unnamed minister and President Emile Lahoud.

Tueni was brutally murdered Dec. 12, Defense Minister Elias Murr survived a car bombing July 12 and journalist and activist Samir Kassir and politician George Hawi, both anti-Syrian, perished in car bombs in June. There has been no reported attempt on Lahoud's life, and Hayek freely acknowledges he makes mistakes.

Then, there's Carmen Chammas, who will make a special New Year's Eve appearance to talk astrology. On Feb. 14, she told radio listeners it was the worst possible day for Scorpios, who should ''be vigilant and keep your eyes open.'' Four hours and 50 minutes later, Hariri was killed. He was a Scorpio.

Even if one believes that all of this is nothing more than pure chance, its effect is acutely felt.

Last spring, Hayek had to appear on TV to deny rumors he expected anti-Syrian protesters to be harmed in a violent act during a demonstration.

And this month, phone text messages circulated saying Hayek had warned of a weekend attack in downtown Beirut. Although Hayek emphatically denied saying it, downtown on that weekend was almost deserted.

Islam forbids fortunetelling and several clergymen have issued edicts against it, notably Sheik Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, who said, ''Muslims should beware of those charlatans.''

Nevertheless, Arab newspapers run horoscopes - even in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam - and psychics operate by word of mouth. Lebanon, with its mix of Muslims and Christians, is the freest Arab country, where psychics and astrologers have regular TV and radio shows.

Chammas said she tries to be diplomatic when giving bad news because Arab societies ''cannot handle too much frankness.''

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