The republic of Lebanon, located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is bordered in the north and east by Syria, and bounded by Israel on the south. One of the smaller countries in the Middle East, Lebanonís area measures 4036 square miles. The country is 135 miles long, and its width is only 50 miles at its widest point. About 89% of Lebanonís 3,619,971 citizens live in urban areas. Beirut has regained most of its prewar population and is still the country\'s largest city. The northern port city of Tripoli is the second largest city, followed by Juniyah, north of Beirut. Becoming independent after World War II, Lebanon flourished under its western free-market economy, and was frequented by tourists from all parts of the globe until its civil war.
With stringent laws regarding secrecy in banking, Beirut became the Middle Eastís banking and investment center. During the war, the rest of the Middle East experienced an economic boom, and businesses moved from Beirut to other Middle East economic centers. Since the end of the war in 1991, Lebanon\'s economy has begun to revive. Its Gross Domestic Product reached upwards of $17.2 billion in 1998, and has been increasing by an average of 7.7% annually since 1990. Much of this growth can be attributed to Horizon 2000, a multibillion-dollar reconstruction program sponsored by the government to rebuild Beirut\'s central district. Exports go mainly to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, France, Italy, and the United States. Imports come from Italy, the United States, Germany, France, Syria, the United Kingdom, and Japan. Lebanon\'s chief exports are food and food products, paper products, chemicals, textiles, jewelry, and metal products. Imports to Lebanon include automobiles, trucks, heavy equipment, communications equipment, electronic goods, appliances, machinery, and petroleum and petroleum products.
Religion in Lebanon is does not only serve as oneís preference in worship, but also determines oneís social and political identification. Approximately, 95 % of Lebanese are Arabs; Armenians are the primary minority. Muslims make up about 70% of the population, and are mainly divided into the Sunni, Shia, and Druze sects. Christians make up about 30% of the population, and many belong to the Maronite sect In Lebanon, each sectarian group has its own agenda, political culture, and sworn leaders. Most of the populist speaks Arabic, but its dialect changes some depending on the sect. In addition, English, French, and Armenian are also spoken. Each religion also wants to put Lebanon on a different course. Christians favor the country to have closer ties with Europe, while the Muslims favor closer ties with their Arab neighbors.
However, outside interference by several neighbors, along with the general tensions in the Middle East incited a brief civil war in 1958. Fearing the war may spread from this former British and French controlled colony, the U.S. landed 14,000 Marines on beaches south of Beirut in July 1958. The Marines\' presence helped stabilize the country, and by early August the fighting was finished. After the war, Fouad Chehab, restored confidence and advanced Lebanon\'s economic boom. His successor in 1964, Charles Helou, continued much of Chehab\'s programs but was thwarted by the severe aftereffects of the Six Day War in 1967 with Israel. The war sent another wave of Palestinian refugees to Lebanon. Although Helou kept Lebanon neutral, the fighting and other Middle East tensions triggered complex domestic conflicts. Neither Helou nor his successor after 1970, Sulayman Franjiyah, could stop them. In 1972 the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) opened its headquarters in Beirut. From southern Lebanon, the PLO launched hit-and-run attacks on northern Israel.
Lebanonís Civil War began on April 13, 1975, when Muslim gunmen killed several Christian Phalangists at a Beirut church. In revenge the Phalangists, ambushed a busload of Palestinians, killing 27. More brutal battles occurred, prompting military intervention by Syria. A ceasefire in November 1976 temporarily calmed the situation down. However, the PLO continued its attacks on northern Israel. The Israelis responded by invading southern Lebanon in March 1978, and a self-proclaimed security zone on the southern border of Lebanon, which was manned by the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a Lebanese militia sympathetic to Israel. Unfortunately between 1980 and 1982, fighting again intensified in Beirut. In a goal ďpacifyĒ the Palestinians and