|Background: Lebanon has made progress toward rebuilding its
political institutions and regaining its national sovereignty since 1991
and the end of the devastating 16-year civil war. Under the Ta'if Accord -
the blueprint for national reconciliation - the Lebanese have established
a more equitable political system, particularly by giving Muslims a
greater say in the political process while institutionalizing sectarian
divisions in the government. Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have
conducted several successful elections, most of the militias have been
weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended
central government authority over about two-thirds of the country.
Hizballah, the radical Shi'a party, retains its weapons. Syria maintains
about 25,000 troops in Lebanon based mainly in Beirut, North Lebanon, and
the Bekaa Valley. Syria's troop deployment was legitimized by the Arab
League during Lebanon's civil war and in the Ta'if Accord. Damascus
justifies its continued military presence in Lebanon by citing the
continued weakness of the LAF, Beirut's requests, and the failure of the
Lebanese Government to implement all of the constitutional reforms in the
Ta'if Accord. Israel's withdrawal from its security zone in southern
Lebanon in May of 2000, however, has emboldened some Lebanese Christians
and Druze to demand that Syria withdraw its forces as well.
Government type: republic
Geography of Lebanon
Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria
People of Lebanon
The population of Lebanon comprises Christians and Muslims. No official census has been taken since 1932, reflecting the political sensitivity in Lebanon over confessional (religious) balance. The U.S. Government estimate is that more than half of the resident population is Muslim (Shi'a, Sunni), or Druze, and the rest is Christian (predominantly Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, and Armenian). Shi'a Muslims make up the single largest sect. Claims since the early 1970s by Muslims that they are in the majority contributed to tensions preceding the 1975-89 civil war and have been the basis of demands for a more powerful Muslim voice in the government.
While 360,000 Palestinian refugees have registered in Lebanon with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) since 1948, estimates of those remaining range between 160,000-225,000. 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 instability until 1992 sparked further waves of emigration, casting even more doubt on population figures. 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.
Population: 3,826,018 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Lebanon > Map Economy History