Lebanon — June 2005

Sociopolitical Situation

To date, investigation by the government has revealed nothing about the 14 February assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In May, an international group of about 100 experts was commissioned by the UN to investigate it.

Although the last Syrian troops left Lebanon on 15 April, the implementation of the clause of UN Security Council resolution 1559 that calls for the disarmament of all militias including Hezbollah and the various Palestinian forces remains uncertain. With Lebanon’s new independence, comes the responsibility of re-building the political and economic structures.

The new government headed by Prime Minister Mikati was quick to remove from office the highest-ranking officers of the internal police, general security and army intelligence who were accused of the negligence that led to the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri.

The reform of the economic situation requires serious planning which should include a review of all economic agreements with Syria, which were signed under Syrian pressure and proved to be harmful for Lebanon. The ever increasing national debt and debt payments due in 2005 are a serious concern. The government has recently issued Lebanese pound treasury bonds with an interest rate of 10.25% in an attempt to raise enough funds to meet its obligations. This move, however has its economic consequences on the long term.

Religious Situation

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Cardinal Sfeir continues to pray and work to unite the Lebanese, consolidate ties of love, and preserve peaceful coexistence in the country. Recently, the Patriarch expressed concerns regarding the year 2000 election law that does not provide the right representation of the Christian voters in the parliament.

A Catholic-run radio station, Voice of Charity, operated by the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries in the port of Junieh since 1984, was completely destroyed in a bombing attack May 6th, the latest in a series of attacks in Lebanon’s Christian areas. The attack apparently was in response to the station’s campaign regarding the plight of Lebanese detained in Syrian prisons.

Tele Lumiere the first Christian TV in the Middle East and its satellite channel Noursat are going through a serious financial crisis. As a non-profit organization, donations are its main source of funds and have decreased dramatically. Their debt reached US $2.8 million and they are struggling to prevent their satellite service from being switched off. In response to this crisis they ran a telethon and in one week received pledges of US $1.1 million.

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