Lebanon political crisis threatens economic gains


The political crisis in Lebanon is threatening to derail economic progress after a year that saw 7 percent economic growth, a record number of tourists and bank deposits among the highest in the Middle East.

Lebanon’s Western-backed government collapsed Jan. 12 after Hezbollah and its allies resigned from the Cabinet in a dispute over a U.N. court investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The court, which is widely expected to accuse the militant group, filed a sealed draft indictment Monday, touching off a process many fear could ignite new bloodshed nearly six years after the massive truck bombing along Beirut’s waterfront that killed Hariri.

“This is a very deep and troubling crisis in Lebanon,” said Lebanese economic analyst Kamel Wazni. “The continuation of this crisis with the absence of any political resolution any time soon will have its implications in terms of growth and in terms of development.”

Still, Lebanon is accustomed to managing in crises. Street protests and violence have been the scourge of this tiny Arab country of 4 million people for years, including a devastating 1975-1990 civil war and sectarian battles.