The funeral cortege of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri inched through the crowds earlier today, with his coffin draped in the national flag and escorted by his sons. An estimated 150 thousand people gathered to pay tribute to the man who is credited with driving forward Lebanon’s re-development after 15 years of civil war. Hariri served as prime minister between 1992 and 98, and again between 2000 and 2004.
But he left government last October in protest at Syria’s continuing influence on his country, and joined opposition calls for Damascus to remove its 14 thousand troops still stationed in Lebanon. Calls of “Syria out” were heard above the prayers today and many believe that, despite its protestations, Syria was behind Monday’s attack which killed 16 people and ripped the heart out of a nation. Hariri, a Sunni muslim who had made his fortune in the Saudi construction industry, was laid to rest in the Mohammad al-Amin mosque which he himself had funded and which, poignantly, remains unfinished. Hariri never saw the completion of his dream for a stable and prosperous Lebanon. But today his people were united.