Lebanese remember civil war
Lebanese marked the 30th anniversary of the start of their country's 1975-90 civil war with marches, concerts and other symbolic gestures...
The Associated Press
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanese marked the 30th anniversary of the start of their country's 1975-90 civil war with marches, concerts and other symbolic gestures across a rebuilt capital yesterday, but the goal of a "day of national unity" may still be beyond reach as leaders again failed to agree on a government.
Pro-Syrian Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami said he could not form a Cabinet and that he was stepping down. The move seriously undermined chances of holding elections on schedule next month, and it prompted opposition calls for a new round of street protests to demand a vote be held.
"We must have elections. If we don't, we're moving to the unknown. People may decide to return to the squares," top opposition figure Walid Jumblatt said, referring to the protests on the main squares in central Beirut. The opposition sees the elections, which are supposed to be held by May 31, as their best chance to overturn pro-Syrian politicians' domination of Parliament as Syria ends its decades-long military presence in Lebanon.
But Lebanon's political turmoil — including the failure since Feb. 28 to form a government — has underlined the sharp divisions that continue to hamper recovery. Some fear those divisions could again lead to violence.
Political and sectarian tensions exploded into civil war April 13, 1975, when Christian gunmen killed 27 Palestinians on a bus. The war killed 150,000 people and ravaged a once-prosperous nation. Even after it ended in 1990, Lebanese remained divided.
But Christians and Muslims have shown unprecedented unity following the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which sparked massive protests against Syria. The opposition blames the government and its Syrian backers for the killing, an accusation they deny.
The assassination was the catalyst behind international pressure that forced Syria to order the withdrawal of its army from Lebanon. Syria sent troops in 1976 to help stop the conflict, then became entangled in it and emerged from the war as the dominant power.
To mark the 30th anniversary, Lebanese organized cultural events, some in Beirut's rebuilt downtown, a notorious killing field during the war.