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Lebanon's legacy of conflict continues

Lebanon's legacy of conflict continues
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In November 2009, after five months of stalemate since winning Lebanon’s election in June, Saad Hariri finally managed to put together yet another government of national unity. A dozen of the 30 ministers are affiliated to Hezbollah or one of its allies.

But Lebanon was still struggling to free itself from the political quagmire. And it was the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri that cast the biggest shadow over the last five years.

The finger of blame was pointed immediately at Damascus. After 29 years of military presence in Lebanon, public outrage eventually led to Syrian troops being called home.

Lebanon was plunged into crisis. As well as the conflict with Israel in summer 2006, attacks against political figures became more frequent as Prime Minister Fouad Siniora tried, but failed, to form a government that included Hezbollah.

In May 2007, the UN Security Council created an international tribunal to find who was responsible for Hariri’s assassination.

From the outset, Saad Hariri backed the plan to find his father’s killers. But it came in for strong criticism from Hezbollah, who claimed officials were in the pocket of Israel and the United States.

The net closed around Hezbollah, which many in the West suspected of having blood on its hands.

In May 2008, the tension culminated in violent clashes between the political majority and the opposition. The conflict began to take on the appearance of a civil war, with Hezbollah accused of instigating the violence.

International mediators, under the auspices of Qatar, were brought in to restore calm. And, after 18 months of crisis and six months with no one at the helm, Michel Suleiman, a former commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, took over as President.

Fouad Siniora put together a national unity government, which lasted until the elections in June 2009.

Saad Hariri is determined his father’s killers should be brought to justice. Since taking power, he has been on the case with Hezbollah.

They have boycotted several government meetings and frequently threatened to pull out entirely, due to fears, so some say, of being held to account.

Steering a safe course for national unity through the rough seas of Lebanon’s complex politics is a big ask.

Facing yet more violence and political crisis, everyone in the country is hoping it will be able to ride out the storm.