The area is on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea immediately north of Israel. It is bounded north and east by Syria. North to south it measures about 135 miles with a width of 20 to 35 miles. Most of its area of 3400 square miles is mountains. About one-fourth is cultivated, the principal crops being oranges, apples, grapes, olives, wheat, and potatoes. Tripoli and Sidon are the terminals of oil pipe lines from Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Because of its important cross-roads position, the country enjoyed a flourshing trade with neighboring countries as early as the 13th century.
For twenty years after World War I, The Republic was a mandated territory of France. It was granted independence in 1941, and in 1944 powers formerly excercised by France were transferred to the Lebanese Government. The country became a member of the UN and of the Arab League.
The constitution of the country provided for governmental separation along religious lines. The Maronite Catholics controlled the presidency, the army and a majority in parliment while the Muslims remained second-class citizens.
The situation was further complicated by the influx of Palestinians who were made refugees by Jordan and Egypt when the two countries annexed much of the area where the refugees once lived.
As a result of this mass migration of these refugees, the country quickly became established as the main base of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
By 1975, tensions among the various groups were so high that civil war erupted. Syria, with a mandate from the Arab League invaded to restore order. The country was esentially divided into a number of fiefdoms, each controlled by a particular group. The PLO grew stronger in the south. From 1976, Israel would periodically invade to destroy PLO positions.
In 1982, Israel launched a full invasion. This war was marked by the Israeli bombing of Beirut and by the massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps. A multinational peacekeeping force, including US Troops, was present from 1982 to 1984. A limited peace was accomplished in 1984, with Amin Gemayel as President.
OFFICIAL NAME(S) Lebanese Republic / Al Jumhuriyah al Lubnaniyah CAPITAL: Beirut FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Republic HEAD OF STATE: President Michel Sulayman HEAD OF GOVERNMENT: Prime Minister Fuad SINIORA ; Deputy Prime Minister Issam Abu JAMRA MONETARY UNIT: Pound (LBP) OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian POPULATION: 3,971,941 RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Muslim 59.7% (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3% note: 17 religious sects recognized ETHNIC COMPOSITION: Arab 95%, Armenian 4%, other 1% note: many Christian Lebanese do not identify themselves as Arab but rather as descendents of the ancient Canaanites and prefer to be called Phoenicians LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH : total population: 73.15 years male: 70.67 yrs female: 75.77
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