Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri resigned and dismantled his Government on October 20, 2004. His resignation came after Syria imposed an extension of the mandate of Lebanon’s President Lahoud in September, a move that spurred the United Nations to demand that Syria stop meddling in the affairs of its smaller neighbour.
Mr Hariri and Mr Lahoud were bitter rivals whose disagreements have paralysed the economy. A self-made billionaire and a political moderate, Mr Hariri, 60, served as Lebanon’s Prime Minister for ten of the past twelve years. He was the driving force behind the multibillion-pound reconstruction programme after the country’s civil war in 1975-90.
On October 19, 2004, the UN Security Council released a demand that Syria should abide by a resolution calling on Damascus to withdraw its 14,000 troops from Lebanon, dismantle the Hezbollah organisation and respect Lebanon’s independence. The Security Council instructed Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, to report back every six months on Syria’s compliance.
Lebanon and Syria dismissed the UN statement as “illegal interference in the internal affairs of the two countries.” But buoyed by the UN intervention, the opposition in Lebanon has grown more vocal, demanding an end to Syrian hegemony.
On February 14, 2005, Hariri was killed in a massive bomb explosion that tore through his motorcade and left at least nine others dead.
Sources: Timesonline, (October 21, 2004); Various news reports, (February 14, 2005)