The World Factbook (1990)/Lebanon

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The World Factbook (1990)
United States Central Intelligence Agency

pages 177–179


World Factbook (1990) Lebanon.jpg

 See regional map VI


Total area: 10,400 km²; land area: 10,230 km²

Comparative area: about 0.8 times the size of Connecticut

Land boundaries: 454 km total; Israel 79 km, Syria 375 km

Coastline: 225 km

Maritime claim:

Territorial sea: 2 nm

Disputes: separated from Israel by the 1949 Armistice Line; Israeli troops in southern Lebanon since June 1982; Syrian troops in northern Lebanon since October 1976

Climate: Mediterranean; mild to cool, wet winters with hot, dry summers

Terrain: narrow coastal plain; Al Biqā‘ separates Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains

Natural resources: limestone, iron ore, salt; water-surplus state in a water-deficit region

Land use: 21% arable land; 9% permanent crops; 1% meadows and pastures; 8% forest and woodland; 61% other; includes 7% irrigated

Environment: rugged terrain historically helped isolate, protect, and develop numerous factional groups based on religion, clan, ethnicity; deforestation; soil erosion; air and water pollution; desertification

Note: Nahr al Līţānī only major river in Near East not crossing an international boundary


Population: 3,339,331 (July 1990), growth rate 1.3% (1990)

Birth rate: 28 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 7 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: -8 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 49 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 66 years male, 70 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 3.7 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun Lebanese (sing., pl.); adjective Lebanese

Ethnic divisions: 93% Arab, 6% Armenian, 1% other

Religion: 75% Islam, 25% Christian, NEGL% Judaism; 17 legally recognized sects—4 Orthodox Christian (Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Nestorean, Syriac Orthodox), 7 Uniate Christian (Armenian Catholic, Caldean, Greek Catholic, Maronite, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Syrian Catholic), 5 Islam (Alawite or Nusayri, Druze, Isma‘ilite, Shi‘a, Sunni), and 1 Jewish

Language: Arabic and French (both official); Armenian, English

Literacy: 75%

Labor force: 650,000; 79% industry, commerce, and services, 11% agriculture, 10% government (1985)

Organized labor: 250,000 members (est.)


Note: Between early 1975 and late 1976 Lebanon was torn by civil war between its Christians—then aided by Syrian troops—and its Muslims and their Palestinian allies. The cease-fire established in October 1976 between the domestic political groups generally held for about six years, despite occasional fighting. Syrian troops constituted as the Arab Deterrent Force by the Arab League have remained in Lebanon. Syria's move toward supporting the Lebanese Muslims and the Palestinians and Israel's growing support for Lebanese Christians brought the two sides into rough equilibrium, but no progress was made toward national reconciliation or political reforms—the original cause of the war.

Continuing Israeli concern about the Palestinian presence in Lebanon led to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. Israeli forces occupied all of the southern portion of the country and mounted a summer-long siege of Beirut, which resulted in the evacuation of the PLO from Beirut in September under the supervision of a multinational force (MNF) made up of US, French, and Italian troops. Within days of the departure of the MNF, Lebanon's newly elected president, Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated. In the wake of his death, Christian militiamen massacred hundreds of Palestinian refugees in two Beirut camps. This prompted the return of the MNF to ease the security burden on Lebanon's weak Army and security forces. In late March 1984 the last MNF units withdrew.

Lebanese Parliamentarians met in Ta’if, Saudi Arabia in late 1989 and concluded a national reconciliation pact that codified a new power-sharing formula, specifiying a Christian president but giving Muslims more authority. Rene Muawad was subsequently elected president on 4 November 1989, ending a 13-month period during which Lebanon had no president and rival Muslim and Christian governments. Muawad was assassinated 17 days later, on 22 November; on 24 November Elias Harawi was elected to succeed Muawad.

Progress toward lasting political compromise in Lebanon has been stalled by opposition from Christian strongman Gen. Michel ‘Awn. ‘Awn—appointed acting Prime Minister by outgoing president Amin Gemayel in September 1988—called the national reconciliation accord illegitimate and has refused to recognize the new Lebanese Government.

Lebanon continues to be partially occupied by Syrian troops. Syria augmented its troop presence during the weeks following Muawad's assassination. Troops are deployed in West Beirut and its southern suburbs, in Al Biqā‘, and in northern Lebanon. Iran also maintains a small contingent of revolutionary guards in Al Biqā‘, from which it supports Lebanese Islamic fundamentalist groups.

Israel withdrew the bulk of its forces from the south in 1985, although it still retains troops in a 10-km-deep security zone north of its border with Lebanon. Israel arms and trains the Army of South Lebanon (ASL), which also occupies the security zone and is Israel's first line of defense against attacks on its northern border.

The following description is based on the present constitutional and customary practices of the Lebanese system.

Long-form name: Republic of Lebanon; note—may be changed to Lebanese Republic

Type: republic

Capital: Beirut

Administrative divisions: 5 governorates (muḥāfaz̧at, singular—muḥāfaz̧ah); Al Biqā‘, Al Janūb, Ash Shamāl, Bayrūt, Jabal Lubnān

Independence: 22 November 1943 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)

Constitution: 26 May 1926 (amended)

Legal system: mixture of Ottoman law, canon law, Napoleonic code, and civil law; no judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: Independence Day, 22 November (1943)

Executive branch: president, prime minister, Cabinet; note by custom, the president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim, and the president of the legislature is a Shi‘a Muslim

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (Arabic—Majlis Alnuwab, French—Assemblée Nationale)

Judicial branch: four Courts of Cassation (three courts for civil and commercial cases and one court for criminal cases)

Leaders: Chief of State—Elias HARAWI (since 24 November 1989);

Head of Government—Prime Minister Salim AL-HUSS (since 24 November 1989)

Political parties and leaders: political party activity is organized along largely sectarian lines; numerous political groupings exist, consisting of individual political figures and followers motivated by religious, clan, and economic considerations; most parties have well-armed militias, which are still involved in occasional clashes

Suffrage: compulsory for all males at age 21; authorized for women at age 21 with elementary education

Elections: National Assembly—elections should be held every four years but security conditions have prevented elections since May 1972

Communists: the Lebanese Communist Party was legalized in 1970; members and sympathizers estimated at 2,000-3,000

Member of: Arab League, CCC, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IDB—Islamic Development Bank, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, IPU, ITU, IWC—International Wheat Council, NAM, OIC, UN, UNESCO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WSG, WTO

Diplomatic representation: Ambassador (vacant); Chargé d' Affaires Suleiman RASSI; note—the former Lebanese Ambassador, Dr. Abdallah Bouhabib, is loyal to Gen. ‘Awn and has refused to abandon his residence or relinquish his post; Chancery at 2560 28th Street NW, Washington DC 20008; telephone (202) 939-6300; there are Lebanese Consulates General in Detroit, New York, and Los Angeles; US—Ambassador John T. MCCARTHY; Embassy at Avenue de Paris, Beirut (mailing address is P. O. Box 70-840, Beirut); telephone [961] 417774 or 415802, 415803, 402200, 403300

Flag: three horizontal bands of red (top), white (double width), and red with a green and brown cedar tree centered in the white band


Overview: Severe factional infighting in 1989 has been destroying physical property, interrupting the established pattern of economic affairs, and practically ending chances of restoring Lebanon's position as a Middle Eastern entrepôt and banking hub. The ordinary Lebanese citizen struggles to keep afloat in an environment of physical danger, high unemployment, and growing shortages. The central government's ability to collect taxes has suffered greatly from militia control and taxation of local areas. As the civil strife persists, the US dollar has become more and more the medium of exchange. Transportation, communications, and other parts of the infrastructure continue to deteriorate. Family remittances, foreign political money going to the factions, international emergency aid, and a small volume of manufactured exports help prop up the battered economy. Prospects for 1990 are grim, with expected further declines in economic activity and living standards.

GDP: $2.3 billion, per capita $700; real growth rate NA% (1989 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 60% (1989 est.)

Unemployment rate: 33% (1987 est.)

Budget: revenues $50 million; expenditures $650 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1988 est.)

Exports: $1.0 billion (f.o.b., 1987); commodities—agricultural products, chemicals, textiles, precious and semiprecious metals and jewelry, metals and metal products; partners—Saudi Arabia 16%, Switzerland 8%, Jordan 6%, Kuwait 6%, US 5%

Imports: $1.5 billion (c.i.f., 1987); commodities—NA; partners—Italy 14%, France 12%, US 6%, Turkey 5%, Saudi Arabia 3%

External debt: $935 million (December 1988)

Industrial production: growth rate NA%

Electricity: 1,381,000 kW capacity; 3,870 million kWh produced, 1,170 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: banking, food processing, textiles, cement, oil refining, chemicals, jewelry, some metal fabricating

Agriculture: accounts for about one-third of GDP; principal products—citrus fruits, vegetables, potatoes, olives, tobacco, hemp (hashish), sheep, and goats; not self-sufficient in grain

Illicit drugs: illicit producer of opium poppy and cannabis for the international drug trade; opium poppy production in Al Biqā‘ is increasing; most hashish production is shipped to Western Europe

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-88), $356 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), $509 million; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $962 million; Communist countries (1970-86), $9 million

Currency: Lebanese pound (plural—pounds); 1 Lebanese pound (£L) = 100 piasters

Exchange rates: Lebanese pounds (£L) per US$1—474.21 (December 1989), 496.69 (1989), 409.23 (1988), 224.60 (1987), 38.37 (1986), 16.42 (1985)

Fiscal year: calendar year


Railroads: 378 km total; 296 km 1.435-meter standard gauge, 82 km 1.050-meter gauge; all single track; system almost entirely inoperable

Highways: 7,370 km total; 6,270 km paved, 450 km gravel and crushed stone, 650 km improved earth

Pipelines: crude oil, 72 km (none in operation)

Ports: Beirut, Tripoli, Ra’s Sil‘ātā, Jūniyah, Sidon, Az Zahrānī, Tyre, Shikkā (none are under the direct control of the Lebanese Government); northern ports are occupied by Syrian forces and southern ports are occupied or partially quarantined by Israeli forces; illegal ports scattered along the central coast are owned and operated by various Christian, Druze, and Shi‘a militias

Merchant marine: 67 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 325,361 GRT/494,319 DWT; includes 43 cargo, 1 refrigerated cargo, 2 vehicle carrier, 2 roll-on/roll-off cargo, 2 container, 7 livestock carrier, 1 petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) tanker, 1 chemical tanker, 1 specialized tanker, 6 bulk, 1 combination bulk

Civil air: 15 major transport aircraft

Airports: 9 total, 8 usable; 5 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 3 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 2 with runways 1,220-2,439 m; none under the direct control of the Lebanese Government

Telecommunications: rebuilding program disrupted; had fair system of radio relay, cable; 325,000 telephones; stations—5 AM, 3 FM, 15 TV; 1 inactive Indian Ocean INTELSAT satellite earth station; 3 submarine coaxial cables; radio relay to Jordan and Syria, inoperable

Defense Forces

Branches: Army, Navy, Air Force

Military manpower: males 15-49, 702,961; 434,591 fit for military service; about 44,625 reach military age (18) yearly

Defense expenditures: NA