12 December 2007

Lebanon's Existence is Targeted by el-Hajj's Assassination

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora said Wednesday's car bomb assassination of chief of military operations Brig. Gen. Francois el-Hajj aims at blocking the election of a new president for the nation.
"This is one of a series of crimes that targeted Lebanese institutions and leaders... and now is targeting the military and the army command in a bid to foil the presidential election," Saniora said.

El-Hajj, a key figure in the army's victory against Fatah al-Islam terrorists in a 15-week battle earlier this year, was tipped to replace army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman, who is the frontrunner to become Lebanon's next president.

He was killed a day after parliament postponed until December 17 a session to elect Suleiman, amid a tug-of-war between the ruling majority and an opposition allied with Syria and Iran.

Since 2005 Lebanon has been rocked by a series of assassinations targeting anti-Syrian figures. The ruling majority has blamed the attacks on Damascus that has rejected the accusations.

"The criminals wanted to terrorize and shake the morale of the institution (army) which has succeeded in carrying out great national missions," Saniora said, referring to the army's victory over the Fatah al-Islam militants earlier this year.
Saniora vowed that "the Lebanese people will not surrender, and the Lebanese army and security forces will not back down or be scared."

"The message was clear, and the response to it is more determination," he said. "The existence of Lebanon is targeted, but Lebanon is here to stay."-(AFP)

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.