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Economy of Lebanon

Lebanon has a free-market economy and a strong laissez-faire commercial tradition. The Lebanese economy is service-oriented; main growth sectors include banking and tourism. According to the Central Bank of Lebanon, Lebanon posted 9% GDP real growth in 2009, with inflation running at 3.4%. There are no restrictions on foreign exchange or capital movement, and bank secrecy is strictly enforced. Lebanon has legislation to combat money laundering and terrorism finance, and joined the Kimberley Process in September 2005. There are practically no restrictions on foreign investment; however, the investment climate suffers from red tape, corruption, arbitrary licensing decisions, high taxes, tariffs, and fees, archaic legislation, and a lack of adequate protection of intellectual property. There are no country-specific U.S. trade sanctions against Lebanon. Lebanon embarked on a massive reconstruction program in 1992 to rebuild the country's physical and social infrastructure devastated by both the long civil war (1975-90) and the Israeli occupation of the south (1978-2000). In addition, the delicate social balance and the near-dissolution of central government institutions during the civil war handicapped the state as it sought to capture revenues to fund the recovery effort. Monetary stabilization coupled with high interest rate policies aggravated the debt service burden, leading to a substantial rise in budget deficits. Thus, the government accumulated significant debt, which by the end of 2009 had reached $51 billion, or 156% of GDP. Unemployment was estimated at 9.2% in 2007 by the Central Administration of Statistics. The government has maintained a firm commitment to the Lebanese pound, which has been pegged to the dollar since September 1999. The government passed an Investment Development Law as well as laws for the privatization of the telecom and the electricity sector, signed the Euro-Med Partnership Agreement with the European Union (EU) in March 2003, and is working toward accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). In order to increase revenues, the government introduced a 10% value added tax (VAT) that became applicable in February 2002 and a 5% tax on interest income that became applicable in February 2003. The Finance Ministry submitted additional revenue raising measures as part of the 2009 budget. Plagued by mounting indebtedness, Lebanon submitted a comprehensive program on its financing needs at the Paris II donors conference in November 2002 and succeeded in attracting pledges totaling $4.4 billion, including $3.1 billion to support fiscal adjustment and $1.2 billion to support economic development projects. Despite the substantial aid it had received, the government made little progress on its reform program, and by 2006, even before the war between Hizballah and Israel, the debt problem had grown worse. After the war, $940 million in relief and early reconstruction aid was pledged to Lebanon August 31, 2006 at a donors conference in Stockholm, and an additional $7.6 billion in assistance for reconstruction and economic stabilization was pledged in Paris January 25, 2007 at the International Conference for Support to Lebanon, or "Paris III". Unlike the Paris II aid, much of the Paris III aid was contingent on Lebanon's meeting agreed benchmarks in implementing its proposed five-year economic and social reform program. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) signed an Emergency Post-Conflict Assistance (EPCA) Program with Lebanon to support the Government of Lebanon's economic reform program in 2007, and a second EPCA for 2008-2009, to monitor the progress of reforms and to advise donors on the timing of aid delivery. Lebanon, with a population of approximately 3.8 million, is the 64th largest market for U.S. exports. In first nine months of 2009, the United States exported $1.065 billion worth of goods to Lebanon. The top five U.S. exports to Lebanon were vehicles, mineral fuel and oil, machinery, electrical appliances, and cereals. Major competitors of U.S. companies in Lebanon include French, Italian, German, British, Korean, and Chinese companies. The U.S. has neither a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Lebanon nor an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation. However, on December 1, 2006, the U.S. signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the Government of Lebanon to help promote an attractive investment climate, expand trade relations, and remove obstacles to trade and investment between the two countries. GDP (2006 est.): $21.5 billion. GDP growth rate (2006 est.): (-5%). Per capita GDP (2006 est.): $5,500. Natural resources: limestone, iron ore, salt. Agriculture: Products--citrus, grapes, tomatoes, apples, vegetables, potatoes, olives, tobacco; sheep, goats. Arable land--18%. Industry: Types--banking, tourism, food processing, jewelry, cement, textiles, mineral and chemical products, wood and furniture products, oil refining, metal fabricating. Trade: Exports--$1.88 billion (2005 est., f.o.b.): authentic jewelry, inorganic chemicals, miscellaneous consumer goods, fruit, tobacco, construction minerals, electric power machinery and switchgear, textile fibers, paper. Major markets--Syria, U.A.E., Switzerland, Turkey, Saudi Arabia. Imports--$9.34 billion (2005 est., f.o.b.): petroleum products, cars, medicinal products, clothing, meat and live animals, consumer goods, paper, textile fabrics, tobacco. Major suppliers--Italy, Syria, France, Germany, China, U.S., U.K., Saudi Arabia.

Geography of Lebanon

Cities: Capital--Beirut (pop. 1 million). Other cities--Tripoli (240,000), Sidon (110,000), Tyre (60,000), Zahleh (55,000). Terrain: Narrow coastal plain backed by the Lebanon Mountains, the fertile Biqa' Valley, and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, which extend to the Syrian border. Land--61% urban, desert, or waste; 21% agricultural; 8% forested. Climate: Typically Mediterranean, resembling that of southern California. Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria Map references: Middle East Area: total area: 10,400 sq km land area: 10,230 sq km comparative area: about 0.8 times the size of Connecticut Land boundaries: total 454 km, Israel 79 km, Syria 375 km Coastline: 225 km Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
International disputes:
separated from Israel by the 1949 Armistice Line; Israeli troops in southern Lebanon since June 1982; Syrian troops in northern, central, and eastern Lebanon since October 1976 Climate: Mediterranean; mild to cool, wet winters with hot, dry summers; Lebanon mountains experience heavy winter snows Terrain: narrow coastal plain; Al Biqa' (Bekaa Valley) separates Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains Natural resources: limestone, iron ore, salt, water-surplus state in a water-deficit region Land use: arable land: 21% permanent crops: 9% meadows and pastures: 1% forest and woodland: 8% other: 61% Irrigated land: 860 sq km (1989 est.) Environment: current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; air pollution in Beirut from vehicular traffic and the burning of industrial wastes; pollution of coastal waters from raw sewage and oil spills natural hazards: duststorms, sandstorms International agreements: party to - Biodiversity, Climate Change, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution; signed, but not ratified - Desertification, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation Note: Nahr al Litani only major river in Near East not crossing an international boundary; rugged terrain historically helped isolate, protect, and develop numerous factional groups based on religion, clan, and ethnicity.

Government of Lebanon

Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy in which the people constitutionally have the right to change their government. However, from the mid-1970s until the parliamentary elections in 1992, civil war precluded the effective exercise of political rights. According to the constitution, direct elections must be held for the parliament every 4 years. Parliament, in turn, is tasked to elect a new president every 6 years. A presidential election scheduled for the autumn of 2004 was pre-empted by a parliamentary vote to extend the sitting president's term in office by 3 years. An election for a new president was held in May 2008. Parliamentary elections were held on June 7, 2009. The president, based on binding consultations with the parliament, appoints the prime minister. Political parties may be formed. However, the political parties that do exist are mostly based on sectarian interests. Since the emergence of the post-1943 state, national policy has been determined largely by a relatively restricted group of traditional regional and sectarian leaders. The 1943 national pact, an unwritten agreement that established the political foundations of modern Lebanon, allocated political power on an essentially confessional system based on the 1932 census. Until 1990, seats in parliament were divided on a six-to-five ratio of Christians to Muslims (with Druze counted as Muslims). With the Ta'if Agreement, the ratio changed to half and half. Senior positions in the government bureaucracy are allocated on a similar basis. Indeed, gaining political office is virtually impossible without the firm backing of a particular religious or confessional group. The pact also allocated public offices along religious lines, with the top three positions in the ruling "troika" distributed as follows: * The presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian; * The prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, and * The speaker of parliament, a Shi'a Muslim. Efforts to alter or abolish the confessional system of allocating power have been at the center of Lebanese politics for decades. Those religious groups most favored by the 1943 formula sought to preserve it, while those who saw themselves at a disadvantage sought either to modify its demographic formula or to abolish it entirely. Nonetheless, many of the provisions of the national pact were codified in the 1989 Ta'if Agreement, perpetuating sectarianism as a key element of Lebanese political life. Although moderated somewhat under Ta'if, constitutionally, the president has a strong and influential position. The president has the authority to promulgate laws passed by the Chamber of Deputies, to issue supplementary regulations to ensure the execution of laws, and to negotiate and ratify treaties. The Chamber of Deputies is elected by adult suffrage (majority age is 21) based on a system of proportional representation for the various confessional groups. Political blocs are usually based on confessional and local interests or on personal/family allegiance rather than on left/right policy orientations. The parliament traditionally has played a significant role in financial affairs, since it has the responsibility for levying taxes and passing the budget. It also exercises political control over the cabinet through formal questioning of ministers on policy issues and by requesting a confidence debate. Lebanon's judicial system is based on the Napoleonic Code. Juries are not used in trials. The Lebanese court system has three levels--courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters, such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance, within particular religious communities. POLITICAL CONDITIONS Lebanese political institutions often play a secondary role to highly confessionalized personality-based politics. Powerful families also still play an independent role in mobilizing votes for both local and parliamentary elections. Nonetheless, a lively panoply of domestic political parties, some even predating independence, still exists. The largest are all confessionally based. The Kataeb (Phalange), National Bloc, National Liberal Party, Lebanese Forces, and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) are overwhelmingly Christian parties. Amal and Hizballah are the main rivals for the organized Shi'a vote, and the PSP (Progressive Socialist Party) is the leading Druze party. In the 2005 parliamentary elections, an anti-Syrian coalition ("March 14") emerged, led by Sa'ad Hariri's predominantly Sunni Future Movement and allied with Druze leader Jumblatt, the Qornet Shehwan coalition of center-right Christian politicians, Samir Geagea's mostly Maronite Lebanese Forces, and Elias Attallah's Democratic Left secular movement. In addition to domestic parties, there are branches of pan-Arab secular parties (Ba'ath, socialist and communist parties) that were active in the 1960s and throughout the period of civil war. There are differences both between and among Muslim and Christian parties regarding the role of religion in state affairs. There is a very high degree of political activism among religious leaders across the sectarian spectrum. The interplay for position and power among the religious, political, and party leaders and groups produces a political tapestry of extraordinary complexity. In the past, the system worked to produce a viable democracy. The civil war resulted in greater segregation across the confessional spectrum. Whether in political parties, places of residence, schools, media outlets, even workplaces, there is a lack of regular interaction across sectarian lines to facilitate the exchange of views and promote understanding. Some Christians favor political and administrative decentralization of the government, with separate Muslim and Christian sectors operating within the framework of a confederation. Muslims, for the most part, prefer a unified, central government with an enhanced share of power commensurate with their larger share of the population. The trajectory of the Ta'if Agreement points towards a non-confessional system, but there has been no real movement in this direction in the decade and a half since Ta'if, though in the past few years, there have been murmurings to change the agreement. Palestinian refugees, predominantly Sunni Muslims, who numbered 419,285 in 2008 according to UNWRA, are not active on the domestic political scene. Nonetheless, they constitute an important minority whose naturalization/settlement in Lebanon is vigorously opposed by most Lebanese, who see them as a threat to Lebanon's delicate confessional balance. In 2002, parliament enacted legislation banning Palestinians from owning property in Lebanon. The Labor Ministry opened up professions previously closed to Palestinians in June 2005. The number of Iraqi refugees is approximately 50,000 and is believed to have stabilized as of 2008. Principal Government Officials President--Michel Sleiman Prime Minister--Sa’ad Hariri Speaker of Parliament--Nabih Berri Minister of Foreign Affairs--Ali al-Chami Finance Minister--Raya Haffar al-Hassan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense--Elias Murr Interior Minister--Ziyad Baroud Ambassador to the U.S.--Antoine Chedid Ambassador to the UN--Nawaf Salam Lebanon maintains an embassy in the United States at 2560 28th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 939-6300. There also are three consulates general in the United States: 1959 East Jefferson, Suite 4A, Detroit, MI 48207, tel. (313) 567-0233/0234; 7060 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 510, Los Angeles, CA 90028, tel. (213) 467-1253/1254; and 9 East 76th Street, New York, N.Y. l0021, tel. (212) 744-7905/7906 and 744-7985.

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History of Lebanon

Lebanon is the historic home of the Phoenicians, Semitic traders whose maritime culture flourished there for more than 2,000 years (c.2700-450 B.C.). In later centuries, Lebanon's mountains were a refuge for Christians, and Crusaders established several strongholds there. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the League of Nations mandated the five provinces that comprise present-day Lebanon to France. Modern Lebanon's constitution, drawn up in 1926, specified a balance of political power among the various religious groups. The country gained independence in 1943, and French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon participated in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and signed an armistice with Israel on March 23, 1949. The terms of the first two presidents ended in political turmoil. In 1958, during the last months of President Chamoun's term, an insurrection broke out, aggravated by external factors. In July 1958, in response to an appeal by the Lebanese Government, U.S. forces were sent to Lebanon. They were withdrawn in October 1958, after the inauguration of President Shihab and a general improvement in the internal and international aspects of the situation. President Franjiyah's term saw the outbreak of full-scale civil conflict in 1975. Prior to 1975, difficulties had arisen over the large number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and the presence of Palestinian fedayeen (commandos). Frequent clashes involving Israeli forces and the fedayeen endangered civilians in south Lebanon and unsettled the country. Following minor skirmishes in the late 1960s and early 1970s, serious clashes erupted between the fedayeen and Lebanese Government forces in May 1973. Coupled with the Palestinian problem, Muslim and Christian differences grew more intense, with occasional clashes between private sectarian militias. The Muslims were dissatisfied with what they considered an inequitable distribution of political power and social benefits. In April 1975, after shots were fired at a church, a busload of Palestinians was ambushed by gunmen in the Christian sector of Beirut, an incident widely regarded as the spark that touched off the civil war. Palestinian fedayeen forces joined the predominantly leftist-Muslim side as the fighting persisted, eventually spreading to most parts of the country. Elias Sarkis was elected president in 1976. In October, Arab summits in Riyadh and Cairo set forth a plan to end the war. The resulting Arab Deterrent Force (ADF), composed largely of Syrian troops, moved in at the Lebanese Government's invitation to separate the combatants, and most fighting ended soon thereafter. As an uneasy quiet settled on Beirut and parts of Lebanon, security conditions in southern Lebanon began to deteriorate. A series of clashes occurred in the south in late 1977 and early 1978 between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Lebanese leftists on the one hand, and the pro- Israeli, southern Lebanese militia (eventually known as the "Army of South Lebanon," or SLA) on the other. After a raid on a bus in Northern Israel left large numbers of Israeli and Palestinian guerrilla casualties, Israel invaded Lebanon in March 1978, occupying most of the area south of the Litani river. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 425 calling for withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon and creating a UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), charged with maintaining peace. When the Israelis withdrew, they turned over positions inside Lebanon along the border to their Lebanese ally, the SLA, and formed a "security zone" which exists to this day under the effective control of Israel and the SLA. In mid-1978, clashes between the ADF and the Christian militias erupted. Arab foreign ministers created the Arab Follow-Up Committee, composed of Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, to end fighting between the Syrians and Christians. After the Saudi ambassador was wounded in December 1978, the committee did not meet again formally until June 1981, when it was convened to address security and national reconciliation. The committee was unsuccessful in making progress toward a political settlement and has been inactive since November 1981. Israeli-Palestinian fighting in July 1981 was ended by a cease-fire arranged by U.S. President Ronald Reagan's special envoy, Philip C. Habib, and announced on July 24, 1981. The cease-fire was respected during the next 10 months, but a string of incidents, including PLO rocket attacks on northern Israel, led to the June 6, 1982, Israeli ground attack into Lebanon to remove PLO forces. Israeli forces moved quickly through south Lebanon, encircling west Beirut by mid-June and beginning a three- month siege of Palestinian and Syrian forces in the city. Throughout this period, which saw heavy Israeli air, naval, and artillery bombardments of west Beirut, Ambassador Habib worked to arrange a settlement. In August, he was successful in bringing about an agreement for the evacuation of Syrian troops and PLO fighters from Beirut. The agreement also provided for the deployment of a three-nation Multinational Force (MNF) during the period of the evacuation, and by late August, U.S. Marines, as well as French and Italian units, had arrived in Beirut. When the evacuation ended, these units departed. The U.S. Marines left on September 10. In spite of the invasion, the Lebanese political process continued to function, and Bashir Gemayel was elected President in August, succeeding Elias Sarkis. On September 14, however, Bashir Gemayel was assassinated. On September 15, Israeli troops entered west Beirut. During the next three days, Lebanese militiamen massacred hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in west Beirut. Bashir Gemayel's brother, Amine, was elected President by a unanimous vote of the parliament. He took office September 23, 1982. MNF forces returned to Beirut at the end of September as a symbol of support for the government. In February 1983, a small British contingent joined the U.S., French, and Italian MNF troops in Beirut. President Gemayel and his government placed primary emphasis on the withdrawal of Israeli, Syrian, and Palestinian forces from Lebanon, and in late 1982, Lebanese- Israeli negotiations commenced with U.S. participation. On May 17, 1983, an agreement was signed by the representatives of Lebanon, Israel, and the United States that provided for Israeli withdrawal. Syria declined to discuss the withdrawal of its troops, effectively stalemating further progress. Opposition to the negotiations and to U.S. support for the Gemayel regime led to a series of terrorist attacks in 1983 and 1984 on U.S. interests, including the bombing on April 18, 1983 of the U.S. embassy in west Beirut (63 dead), of the U.S. and French MNF headquarters in Beirut on October 23, 1983 (298 dead), and of the U.S. embassy annex in east Beirut on September 20, 1984 (8 killed). Although the general security situation in Beirut remained calm through late 1982 and the first half of 1983, a move by Christian militiamen into the Druze-controlled Shuf area southeast of Beirut following the Israeli invasion led to a series of Druze-Christian clashes of escalating intensity beginning in October 1982. When Israeli forces unilaterally withdrew from the Shuf at the beginning of September 1983, a full-scale battle erupted with the Druze, backed by Syria, pitted against the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) militia as well as the Lebanese army. U.S. and Saudi efforts led to a cease-fire on September 26. This left the Druze in control of most of the Shuf. Casualties were estimated to be in the thousands. The virtual collapse of the Lebanese army in February 1984, following the defection of many of its Muslim and Druze units to opposition militias, was a major blow to the government. As it became clear that the departure of the U.S. Marines was imminent, the Gemayel Government came under increasing pressure from Syria and its Muslim Lebanese allies to abandon the May 17 accord. The Lebanese Government announced on March 5, 1984, that it was canceling its unimplemented agreement with Israel. The U.S. Marines left the same month. Further national reconciliation talks at Lausanne under Syrian auspices failed. A new "government of national unity" under Prime Minister Rashid Karami was declared in April 1984 but made no significant progress toward solving Lebanon's internal political crises or its growing economic difficulties. The situation was exacerbated by the deterioration of internal security. The opening rounds of the savage "camps war" in May 1985--a war that flared up twice in 1986-- pitted the Palestinians living in refugee camps in Beirut, Tyre, and Sidon against the Shi'ite Amal militia, which was concerned with resurgent Palestinian military strength in Lebanon. Eager for a solution in late 1985, Syria began to negotiate a "tripartite accord" on political reform among the leaders of various Lebanese factions, including the LF. However, when the accord was opposed by Gemayel and the leader of the LF was overthrown by his hardline anti-Syrian rival, Samir Jaja, in January 1986, Syria responded by inducing the Muslim government ministers to cease dealing with Gemayel in any capacity, effectively paralyzing the government. In 1987, the Lebanese economy worsened, and the pound began a precipitous slide. On June 1, Prime Minister Karami was assassinated, further compounding the political paralysis. Salim al-Huss was appointed acting prime minister. As the end of President Gemayel's term of office neared, the different Lebanese factions could not agree on a successor. Consequently, when his term expired on September 23, 1988, he appointed Army Commander General Michel Aoun as interim Prime Minister. Gemayel's acting Prime Minister, Salim al-Huss, also continued to act as de facto Prime Minister. Lebanon was thus divided between an essentially Muslim government in west Beirut and an essentially Christian government in east Beirut. The working levels of many ministries, however, remained intact and were not immediately affected by the split at the ministerial level. In February 1989, General Aoun attempted to close illegal ports run by the LF. This led to several days of intense fighting in east Beirut and an uneasy truce between Aoun's army units and the LF. In March, an attempt by Aoun to close illegal militia ports in predominantly Muslim parts of the country led to a 6-month period of shelling of east Beirut by Muslim and Syrian forces and shelling of west Beirut and the Shuf by the Christian units of the army and the LF. This shelling caused nearly 1,000 deaths, several thousand injuries, and further destruction to Lebanon's economic infrastructure. In January 1989, the Arab League appointed a six-member committee on Lebanon, led by the Kuwaiti foreign minister. At the Casablanca Arab summit in May, the Arab League empowered a higher committee on Lebanon--composed of Saudi King Fahd, Algerian President Bendjedid, and Moroccan King Hassan- -to work toward a solution in Lebanon. The committee issued a report in July 1989, stating that its efforts had reached a "dead end" and blamed Syrian intransigence for the blockage. After further discussions, the committee arranged for a seven-point cease- fire in September, followed by a meeting of Lebanese parliamentarians in Taif, Saudi Arabia. After a month of intense discussions, the deputies informally agreed on a charter of national reconciliation, also known as the Taif agreement. The deputies returned to Lebanon in November, where they approved the Taif agreement on November 4, and elected Rene Moawad, a Maronite Christian deputy from Zghorta in north Lebanon, President on November 5. General Aoun, claiming powers as interim Prime Minister, issued a decree in early November dissolving the parliament and did not accept the ratification of the Taif agreement or the election of President Moawad. President Moawad was assassinated on November 22, 1989, by a bomb that exploded as his motorcade was returning from Lebanese independence day ceremonies. The parliament met on November 24 in the Biqa' Valley and elected Elias Hraoui, a Maronite Christian deputy from Zahleh in the Biqa' Valley, to replace him. President Hraoui named a Prime Minister, Salim al- Huss, and a cabinet on November 25. Despite widespread international recognition of Hraoui and his government, General Aoun refused to recognize Hraoui's legitimacy, and Hraoui officially replaced Aoun as army commander in early December. In late January 1990, General Aoun's forces attacked positions of the LF in east Beirut in an apparent attempt to remove the LF as a political force in the Christian enclave. In the heavy fighting that ensued in east Beirut and its environs, over 900 people died and over 3,000 were wounded. In August 1990, the National Assembly approved, and President Hraoui signed into law, constitutional amendments embodying the political reform aspects of the Taif agreement. These amendments gave some presidential powers to the council of ministers, expanded the National Assembly from 99 to 108 seats, and divided those seats equally between Christians and Muslims (see GOVERNMENT section below). In October 1990, a joint Lebanese-Syrian military operation against General Aoun forced him to capitulate and take refuge in the French embassy. On December 24, 1990, Omar Karami was appointed Lebanon's Prime Minister. General Aoun remained in the French embassy until August 27, 1991 when a "special pardon" was issued, allowing him to leave Lebanon safely and take up residence in exile in France. 1991 and 1992 saw considerable advancement in efforts to reassert state control over Lebanese territory. Militias--with the important exception of Hizballah--were dissolved in May 1991, and the armed forces moved against armed Palestinian elements in Sidon in July 1991. In May 1992 the last of the western hostages taken during the mid-1980s by Islamic extremists was released. In October 1991, under the sponsorship of the United States and the then- Soviet Union, the Middle East peace talks were convened in Madrid, Spain. This was the first time that Israel and its Arab neighbors had direct bilateral negotiations to seek a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and representatives of the Palestinians concluded round 11 of the negotiations in September 1993. A social and political crisis, fueled by economic instability and the collapse of the Lebanese pound, led to Prime Minister Omar Karami's resignation May 6, 1992. He was replaced by former Prime Minister Rashid al Sulh, who was widely viewed as a caretaker to oversee Lebanon's first parliamentary elections in 20 years. The elections were not prepared and carried out in a manner to ensure the broadest national consensus. The turnout of eligible voters in some Christian locales was extremely low, with many voters not participating in the elections because they objected to voting in the presence of non-Lebanese forces. There also were widespread reports of irregularities. The electoral rolls were themselves in many instances unreliable because of the destruction of records and the use of forged identification papers. As a consequence, the results do not reflect the full spectrum of Lebanese politics. Elements of the 1992 electoral law, which paved the way for elections, represented a departure from stipulations of the Taif agreement, expanding the number of parliamentary seats from 108 to 128 and employing a temporary districting arrangement designed to favor certain sects and political interests. According to the Taif agreement, the Syrian and Lebanese Governments were to agree in September 1992 to the redeployment of Syrian troops from greater Beirut. That date passed without an agreement. In early November 1992, Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri formed a new cabinet, retaining for himself the finance portfolio. The formation of the Hariri Government was widely seen as a sign that the Government of Lebanon would seriously grapple with reconstructing the Lebanese state and reviving the economy.

People of Lebanon

The population of Lebanon comprises various Christian and Muslim sects as well as Druze. No official census has been taken since 1932, reflecting the political sensitivity in Lebanon over confessional (religious) balance. While there is no consensus over the confessional breakdown of the population for this reason, it is safe to say that the Muslim sects as a whole make up a majority, and that Shi'as, Sunnis, and Maronites are the three largest groups. About 400,000 Palestinian refugees, some in Lebanon since 1948, are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). They are not accorded the legal rights enjoyed by the rest of the population. With no official figures available, it is estimated that 600,000-900,000 persons fled the country during the initial years of civil war (1975-76). Although some returned, continuing conflict through 1990 as well as after the 2006 war sparked further waves of emigration, casting even more doubt on population figures. As much as 7% of the population was killed during the civil war between 1975 and 1990. Approximately 17,000-20,000 people are still "missing" or unaccounted for from the civil war period. Many Lebanese still derive their living from agriculture. The urban population, concentrated mainly in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, is noted for its commercial enterprise. A century and a half of migration and return have produced Lebanese commercial networks around the globe--from North and South America to Europe, the Gulf, and Africa. Lebanon has a high proportion of skilled labor compared with many other Arab countries. Nationality: noun and adjective--Lebanese (singular and plural). Population (2006 est.): 3,874,050. Growth rate (2006 est.): 1.23%. Major ethnic groups: Arab 95%, Armenian 4%, other 1% (note: many Christian Lebanese do not identify themselves as Arab but rather as descendents of the ancient Canaanites and prefer to be called Phoenicians). Religions: Muslim 60% (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ili, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1%. Languages: Arabic (official), English, French, Armenian. Education: Years compulsory--8. Attendance--99%. Literacy (2005 est.)--87.4%; 93.1% male, 82.2% female. Health (2006 est.): Infant mortality rate--23.7/1,000. Life expectancy--70.41 male, 75.48 female. Work force (2001 est.): 2.6 million.
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