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The Republic of Lebanon, or Lebanon (لبنان), is a small, largely mountainous country in the Middle East, located at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south, with a narrow coastline along its western edge. The flag of Lebanon features the Lebanon Cedar in green against a white backdrop, with two quarter-height horizontal red stripes on the top and bottom. The name Lebanon (also "Loubnan" or "Lebnan") is derived from the Aramaic word laban, meaning "white", a reference to snow-capped Mount Lebanon.Motto: Transliteration: Koullouna Lil Watan, Lil Oula wal'Allam (Translation: "Us all! For our Nation, for our Emblem and Glory!") Anthem: Kulluna lil-watan lil 'ula lil-'alam Location of Lebanon Capital Beirut 33°54′ N 35°32′ E Largest city Beirut Official language(s) Arabic 1 Government President Prime Minister Republic Émile Lahoud Fouad Siniora Constitution Independence - Declared - Recognised Drawn on May 23, 1926 From Vichy France November 26, 1941 November 22, 1943 Area - Total - Water (%) 10,452 km² (161st) 4,034 mi² 1.6% Population - 2005 est. - 1932 census - Density 3,826,018 2 (123rd) 861,399 3 358/km² (16th) 948/mi² GDP (PPP) - Total - Per capita 2005 estimate $19.49 billion (116th) $5,100 (130th) HDI (2003) 0.759 (81st) – medium Currency Lebanese pound (LL) (LBP) Time zone - Summer (DST) UTC+2 (UTC) UTC+3 (UTC) Internet TLD .lb Calling code +961 1 Official documents are also often written in French. Spoken languages in Lebanon includes Arabic Lebanese dialect, French, English, Armenian. 2 The Lebanese diaspora represents 10 to 14 million Lebanese around the world. 3 The government has deliberately avoided conducting an update of the 1932 census fearing the change that might happen in the foundations of political representation. HISTORY
Civil War (1975-1990)Until the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, was noted for its wide boulevards, French-style architecture, and modernity, and was called "the Paris of the Middle East." Lebanon as a whole was known as the Switzerland of the Middle East (Swisra Ash Shark), enjoying a similar conflict-free status as Costa Rica in Central America and (until recently) Uruguay in South America.
Beginning of the warAfter the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanon became home to more than 110,000 Palestinian refugees who had fled from Israel. More Palestinian refugees arrived after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and Black September. By 1975 they numbered more than 300,000 with Yassir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in charge of their political and military activities. During the early 1970s difficulties arose over the increase of Palestinian refugees in the south. Initially, the fighting began between these Palestinians (referred to as "anti-Lebanese militias" by some) and the indigenous Lebanese "leftists" (the communists and socialist parties.) As the fighting intensified the sides involved became more distinct. On one side were a number of mostly Christian Maronite militias, the most important of which was linked to the nazi-inspired Phalangist Party; its commander was Bachir Gemayel. The other side comprised a coalition of Palestinians refugees, Sunni Muslim, and Druze forces who were united in their detestation of the National Pact, a French inspired agreement that placed the Maronites in perpetual position of power over the majority of the population. The civil war left the nation with no effective central government.
Syrian intervention and occupationIn June, 1976 Syria sent 40,000 troops into Lebanon to prevent the Maronite militias from being overrun by Palestinian forces. The fact that Baathist Syrians were fighting against Palestinians was ironic. Together the Syrians and Maronites pushed the Palestinians out of Beirut and into southern Lebanon. Over the next few years, shifting political climates resulted in Syria being allied with the Palestinians and the Maronites allied with Israel. Syrian forces remained in Lebanon, effectively dominating its government, until 2005.
First Israeli invasion and occupationCross-border attacks by Palestinian groups in southern Lebanon against civilians in Israeli territory led to an invasion by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on March 15, 1978 in what was titled the Litani River Operation. A few days later, the United Nations Security Council passed resolutions 425 and 426, calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces, and establishing an international peace-keeping force in southern Lebanon, the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL). Three months later, on June 13, 1978, Israel completed the withdrawal of its troops, and turned over control of southern Lebanon to the Christian SLA, a militia allied with Israel.
Second Israeli invasion and occupationThe PLO's armed forces continued to use Lebanon as a base to attack Israel with rockets and artillery, and on June 6, 1982 Israel again invaded Lebanon with the objective of evicting the PLO. Israeli forces occupied areas from the southern Lebanese border with Israel northward into areas of Beirut. During this invasion the Phalangist militia, under the command of Elie Hobeika, moved into the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, with the knowledge of Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, and committed the first Sabra and Shatila massacre. Israel's plans for Lebanon suffered a severe setback on September 14, 1982, with the assassination of the Phalangist leader and President-elect Bachir Gemayel, who was regarded as secretly sympathetic to Israel. To date, there is no formal declaration of war between Lebanon and Israel, despite the lack of communication between the two nations.
International mediationA multinational force landed in Beirut on August 20, 1982 to oversee the PLO withdrawal from Lebanon, and US mediation resulted in the evacuation of Syrian troops and PLO fighters from Beirut. This period saw the rise of radicalism among the country's factions, and a number of landmark terrorist attacks against American forces, including the destruction of the US Embassy by a truck bomb and an even deadlier attack on the US Marines barracks. Concurrently, in 1982 Hezbollah was created by former members of Amal and other religious clerics. 1988 and 1989 saw unprecedented chaos. The Parliament failed to elect a successor to President Amine Gemayel (who had replaced his slain brother Bachir in 1982), whose term expired on 23 September. Fifteen minutes before his term expired, Gemayel appointed an interim administration headed by the army commander, General Michel Aoun. His predecessor, Selim al-Hoss, refused to accept his dismissal in Aoun's favour. Lebanon was thus left with no President, and two rival governments that feuded for power, and more than 40 private militias
End of the warThe 1989 Arab League-sponsored Taif Agreement marked the beginning of the end of the war. It is estimated that more than 100,000 were killed, and 100,000 maimed during the 15-year war. On May 22, 2000, Israel unilaterally completed its withdrawal from the south of Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425 of 1978. On September 2 2004, the United Nations Security Council, recalling previous resolutions, especially 425 (1978), 520 (1982) and 1553 (July 2004), approved Resolution 1559, sponsored by the US and France, demanding that Syria, though not mentioned by name, should withdraw its troops from Lebanon. "All foreign forces should withdraw from Lebanon" to allow free elections.
ReconstructionThe country is recovering from the effects of the war, with foreign investment and tourism on the rise. Syrian forces occupied large areas of the country until April 2005 (see Cedar Revolution below), and Iran exercises heavy influence over Hezbollah forces in the Beqaa Valley and Southern Lebanon. Nevertheless, areas of Lebanon and Beirut in particular are moving toward a sense of normality and stability. Lebanese civil society enjoys significantly more freedoms than elsewhere in the Arab world. After twelve years, the reconstruction of downtown Beirut is largely complete. Lebanon's telcommunication rehabilitation is well underway, and in 2004 and 2005 foreign investment in the country topped $1 billion. Solidere has also announced many projects that will be complete in 2007.
Qana shellingOn April 18, 1996, in the midst of Operation Grapes of Wrath, Israeli forces shelled a UNIFIL compound in Qana where 800 Lebanese civilians had taken refuge, resulting in more than 100 Lebanese dead and approximately 300 wounded, including four UNIFIL soldiers. Israel declared the shelling a tragic accident, while a UN inquiry shortly thereafter challenged those claims. An informal cease-fire understanding was reached eight days later.
Cedar RevolutionOn February 14, 2005, after 10 years of relative political stability, Lebanon was shaken by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a car-bomb explosion. It is widely believed that Syria was responsible for the attack, due to its extensive military and intelligence presence in Lebanon, and to the public rift between Hariri and Damascus over the Syrian-backed constitutional amendment extending pro-Syrian President Lahoud's term in office. Syria, however, denies any involvement. Some sources also suggest a cover up of criminal evidence by Lebanese authorities. Up to this point, no person or party has been directly accused of the murder, though investigations continue.
DemonstrationsThe assassination resulted in huge anti-Syrian protests by Lebanese citizens in Beirut demanding the resignation of the pro-Syrian government. Following the examples of the Rose Revolution and Orange Revolution in 2004, the popular action was dubbed the "Cedar Revolution" by the US State Department, a name which quickly caught on among the international media. On February 28, 2005, as over 70,000 people demonstrated in Martyrs' Square, Prime Minister Omar Karami and his Cabinet resigned. They remained in office temporarily in a caretaker role prior to the appointment of replacements, as outlined by the constitution. In response, Hezbollah organized a large counter-demonstration, staged on March 8 in Beirut, supporting Syria and accusing Israel and the United States of meddling in internal Lebanese affairs. On March 14, one month after Hariri's assassination, throngs of people rallied in Martyrs' Square in the largest gathering ever in Lebanon. Wire services estimated the crowds at 800,000, while police officials put the number close to 1 million. Protestors of all sects (even including a number of Shiites) marched demanding the truth about Hariri's murder and independence from Syrian occupation. The march reiterated their will for a sovereign, democratic, and unified country, free of Syria's hegemony. In the weeks following the demonstrations, bombs were detonated in Christian areas near Beirut. Although the damage was mostly material, these acts demonstrate the danger of Lebanon relapsing into sectarian strife.
Parliamentary electionsAfter weeks of unsuccessful negotiations to form a new government, Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned the post for the third time in his political career on 13 April 2005. Two days later, Najib Mikati, a US-educated millionaire businessman and former Minister of Transportation and Public Works, was appointed Prime Minister-designate. A moderate pro-Syrian, Mikati secured the post through the support of the Opposition, which had previously boycotted such negotiations. During the first parliamentary elections held after Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2005, the anti-Syrian coalition of Sunni Muslim, Druze and Christian parties led by Saad Hariri, son of assassinated ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, won a majority of seats in the new Parliament. The combinations were interesting in that in some areas the anti-Syrian coalition allied with Hezbollah and others with Amal. They did not win the two-thirds majority required to force the resignation of Syrian-appointed President Lahoud, due to the unexpectedly strong showing of retired army general Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement party in Mount Lebanon. Aoun is the dominant Christian figure in the new parliament. Known previously for his strong anti-Syrian sentiment, Aoun aligned with politicians who were friendly to the Syrians in the past decade: Soleiman Franjieh Jr and Michel Murr. Their alliance dominated the north and the Metn District of Mount Lebanon. Saad Hariri and Walid Joumblat joined forces with the two staunchly pro-Syrian Shiite movements, Hezbollah and Amal, to secure major wins in the South, Bekaa, and Baabda-Aley district of Mount Lebanon. This alliance proved temporary and the last vestiges of civility between Joumblatt and the shiite coalition came crashing down in December 2005. On the 6th of Febraury 2006 Hezbollah signed a memorandum of understanding with General Michel Aoun and is expected to support Aoun in the Baabda-Aley parliamentary by-election scheduled to be held in March 2006. Hezbollah is also expected to support Aoun's bid for the presidency of Lebanon.
New governmentAfter the elections, Hariri's Future Movement party, now the country's dominant political force, nominated Fouad Siniora, a former Finance Minister, to be Prime Minister. His newly formed representative government has obtained the vote of confidence from the parliament despite the lack of representation of Gen. Aoun. On July 18, Lebanon's newly elected parliament, dominated by an anti-Syrian coalition, approved a motion to pardon Samir Geagea, who had spent most of the past 11 years in solitary confinement in an underground cell with no access to news. The motion was endorsed by pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud the next day. 
Criminal investigationOn September 1, 2005, four current and former officials of Lebanon -- the former head of General Security Maj Gen Jamil Sayyad, the former chief of police Maj Gen Ali Hajj, the former military intelligence chief Brig Gen Raymond Azar, and the commander of the Republican Guard Brig Gen Mustafa Hamdan -- were charged in connection with Hariri's assassination. On October 21, Detlev Mehlis, lead investigator in the UN Hariri Probe released the report of the investigation. The report said that "many leads point to the direct involvement of Syrian Officials".  In the press conference Mr. Mehlis insisted that some of the names in the report "were given by a witness whose reliability required further investigation", and he would have removed more names under the presumption of innocence, had he known that the report would become public.  
Withdrawal of Syrian troopsMaj Gen Jamil Sayyed, the top Syrian ally in the Lebanese security forces, resigned on April 25, 2005. The following day the last 250 Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon. During the departure ceremonies, Syria's Chief of Staff Gen Ali Habib said that Syria's president had decided to recall his troops after the Lebanese army had been "rebuilt on sound national foundations and became capable of protecting the state." UN forces led by Senegalese Brig Gen Mouhamadou Kandji were sent to Lebanon to verify the military withdrawal which was mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1559.
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