History of Lebanon: Modern times

History of Lebanon: Modern times Last updated on Wednesday 21st April 2010

For a while after the independence of 1943, independent Lebanon was a model ecumenical society. Its strategic Middle Eastern location and relatively stable government made it a major trade and financial centre. But two fatal flaws marred the country's chance for lasting peace.

The first cause for conflict was the unbalanced power-sharing arrangement. Control rested with the right-wing Christian part of the population while the Muslims, who comprised 50% of the population felt excluded from real government.

A second problem arose as Lebanon was gradually drawn in to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although the country did not actively participate militarily, displaced Palestinian Muslim refugees flooded into the country and continued their attacks on Israel from Lebanese bases.

In 1958 a Muslim rebellion ended when American marines landed in Beirut, but in the summer of 1975 all-out civil war broke out between the Muslim coalition allied with Palestinian groups and the Christian-dominated militias.

In April 1976, an uneasy cease-fire was forced upon the two sides when Syrian military forces intervened at the request of the Lebanese president, Suleiman Franjieh and with the approval of the Arab League of States. Nevertheless sporadic violence continued, and in 1978 Israel invaded southern Lebanon in an attempt to eliminate Palestinian bases.

Withdrawing three months later after a United Nations peacekeeping force was sent to the area, they reinvaded in 1982, occupying Beirut and forcing the PLO to evacuate its head quarters. For seven weeks the Israelis relentlessly bombed the Muslim half of Beirut by air, sea and land. The USA arranged for the evacuation of PLO fighters to other Arab Countries, and a multinational Force of US and West European troops was deployed to Beirut to protect Palestinian and Muslim civilians.

After the assassination of president-elect Bashir Gemayel, Israeli-backed Christian militias massacred Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Chatila camps in West Beirut. A year later Israeli troops withdrew to southern Lebanon. No sooner had they left when fighting broke out between Lebanon's Christian and Druze militias, and terrorist attacks on the multinational force including the US marine headquarters at Beirut airport resulted in hundreds of casualties.

After 300 US and French troops were killed on October 23, 1983, the Western forces pulled out. Factional fighting persisted and Westerners in Beirut became the targets of radical Shiite Muslims with an allegiance to Iran.

In 1988 a parliamentary power struggle led to the formation of rival Christian and Muslim governments. In 1989 the Lebanese parliament accepted an Arab-brokered peace accord for national reconciliation. MPs elected Maronite Rene Mooed as president who was assassinated 17 days later.

With the help of the Syrians, the Lebanese army took control of Beirut and by 1992 under pressure from Iran and the US, all the foreign hostages captured several years earlier were released.

In 1992 Mr. Rafik Al Hariri was appointed Prime Minister of Lebanon. Mr. Hariri initiated many projects to redevelop war torn Lebanon, especially the capital Beirut, and bring it back to its former glory. Mr. Hariri and Lebanese President Elias Hrawi strove to develop the Lebanese economy and moral despite the presence of the Israeli self styled "security zone" in South Lebanon.

On November 24th 1998, army Cmdr. Emile Lahoud was sworn in as the 11th Lebanese President since Lebanon's independence in 1933. On 3rd of December 1998, Mr Salim Al-Hoss became Lebanon's new Prime Minister following Mr Hariri's sudden resignation. Mr Salim Al- Hoss is no stranger to politics, as this is the fifth time he holds the position of Prime Minister.

Reconstruction Of Lebanon

The infrastructure of Lebanon was seriously destroyed as a result of the civil war that broke out in 1975. However, following after Al-taif peace accord for national reconciliation in 1989 and the subsequent stability in the county, a process of reconstruction had started.

By then, Lebanon had already started a process of recovery after security and personal were no longer posing a threat. The Lebanese currency regained more than 30% of its value against the U.S. dollar.

The reconstruction has already started. The old business center in the capital Beirut has been rebuilt and. New tunnels, bridges and streets are planned to be built and modernized. The reconstruction and modernization process has also included the national telephone and electricity systems. The famous Casino du Liban was also restored . A plan had also been approved to repair, modernize and enlarge the Beirut International Airport, which has already started to gradually regain its previous importance. Plans had been made to invest twelve billion dollars in the public sector by the year 2005. Several million dollars have been spent in promoting and modernizing the private sector in order to make it able to play a key role in the economy of the country.

The atmosphere of peace and stability in the county encouraged several foreign and local investors, who are currently contributing a great deal in promoting the Lebanese economy.

Recovery include Beirut remarkable banking sector, which is considered to be on the most efficient in the world. Recovery and improvement of the Lebanese banking system resulted in a remarkable financial and commercial activity. This activity attracted more than two billion dollars of Lebanese savings and assets that fled in the past due to state of instability. Consequently, banking deposits roles by more than 20%

Seeking to encourage foreign investments, the Lebanese authorities simplified entry visa requirements and reduced the corporate income tax to a maximum of 10%.

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