Middle East :: Lebanon
page last updated on August 3, 2010
Flag of Lebanon
Map of Lebanon
Introduction ::Lebanon
Following World War I, France acquired a mandate over the northern portion of the former Ottoman Empire province of Syria. The French separated out the region of Lebanon in 1920, and granted this area independence in 1943. A lengthy civil war (1975-1990) devastated the country, but Lebanon has since made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions. Under the Ta'if Accord - the blueprint for national reconciliation - the Lebanese established a more equitable political system, particularly by giving Muslims a greater voice in the political process while institutionalizing sectarian divisions in the government. Since the end of the war, Lebanon has conducted several successful elections. Most militias have been reduced or disbanded, with the exception of Hizballah, designated by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and Palestinian militant groups. During Lebanon's civil war, the Arab League legitimized in the Ta'if Accord Syria's troop deployment, numbering about 16,000 based mainly east of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley. Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 and the passage in September 2004 of UNSCR 1559 - a resolution calling for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and end its interference in Lebanese affairs - encouraged some Lebanese groups to demand that Syria withdraw its forces as well. The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq HARIRI and 22 others in February 2005 led to massive demonstrations in Beirut against the Syrian presence ("the Cedar Revolution"), and Syria withdrew the remainder of its military forces in April 2005. In May-June 2005, Lebanon held its first legislative elections since the end of the civil war free of foreign interference, handing a majority to the bloc led by Sa'ad HARIRI, the slain prime minister's son. In July 2006, Hizballah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers leading to a 34-day conflict with Israel in which approximately 1,200 Lebanese civilians were killed. UNSCR 1701 ended the war in August 2006, and Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) deployed throughout the country for the first time in decades, charged with securing Lebanon's borders against weapons smuggling and maintaining a weapons-free zone in south Lebanon with the help of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The LAF in May-September 2007 battled Sunni extremist group Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Barid Palestinian refugee camp, winning a decisive victory, but destroying the camp and displacing 30,000 Palestinian residents. Lebanese politicians in November 2007 were unable to agree on a successor to Emile LAHUD when he stepped down as president, creating a political vacuum until the election of LAF Commander Gen. Michel SULAYMAN in May 2008 and the formation of a new unity government in July 2008. Legislative elections in June 2009 again produced victory for the bloc led by Sa'ad HARIRI, but a period of prolonged negotiation over the composition of the cabinet ensued. A national unity government was finally formed in November 2009 and approved by the National Assembly the following month. In January 2010, Lebanon assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2010-11 term.
Geography ::Lebanon
Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria
Geographic coordinates:
33 50 N, 35 50 E
Map references:
Middle East
total: 10,400 sq km
country comparison to the world: 169
land: 10,230 sq km
water: 170 sq km
Area - comparative:
about 0.7 times the size of Connecticut
Land boundaries:
total: 454 km
border countries: Israel 79 km, Syria 375 km
225 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
Current Weather
Mediterranean; mild to cool, wet winters with hot, dry summers; Lebanon mountains experience heavy winter snows
narrow coastal plain; El Beqaa (Bekaa Valley) separates Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Qurnat as Sawda' 3,088 m
Natural resources:
limestone, iron ore, salt, water-surplus state in a water-deficit region, arable land
Land use:
arable land: 16.35%
permanent crops: 13.75%
other: 69.9% (2005)
Irrigated land:
1,040 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
4.8 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 1.38 cu km/yr (33%/1%/67%)
per capita: 385 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards:
dust storms, sandstorms
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; air pollution in Beirut from vehicular traffic and the burning of industrial wastes; pollution of coastal waters from raw sewage and oil spills
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
Nahr el Litani is the only major river in Near East not crossing an international boundary; rugged terrain historically helped isolate, protect, and develop numerous factional groups based on religion, clan, and ethnicity
People ::Lebanon
4,125,247 (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127
Age structure:
0-14 years: 23.4% (male 495,291/female 471,606)
15-64 years: 67.7% (male 1,359,257/female 1,434,501)
65 years and over: 8.8% (male 169,238/female 195,354) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 29.4 years
male: 28.3 years
female: 30.5 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.621% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145
Birth rate:
15.1 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 137
Death rate:
6.46 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 152
Net migration rate:
urban population: 87% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 1.2% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 16.4 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 116
male: 16.52 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 16.28 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 74.79 years
country comparison to the world: 90
male: 73.28 years
female: 76.36 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.78 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 157
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.1% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 119
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
3,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 131
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 200 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 109
noun: Lebanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Lebanese
Ethnic groups:
Arab 95%, Armenian 4%, other 1%
note: many Christian Lebanese do not identify themselves as Arab but rather as descendents of the ancient Canaanites and prefer to be called Phoenicians
Muslim 59.7% (Shia, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3%
note: 17 religious sects recognized
Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 87.4%
male: 93.1%
female: 82.2% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2006)
Education expenditures:
2.7% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 153
Government ::Lebanon
Country name:
conventional long form: Lebanese Republic
conventional short form: Lebanon
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Lubnaniyah
local short form: Lubnan
former: Greater Lebanon
Government type:
name: Beirut
geographic coordinates: 33 52 N, 35 30 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions:
6 governorates (mohafazat, singular - mohafazah); Beqaa, Beyrouth (Beirut), Liban-Nord, Liban-Sud, Mont-Liban, Nabatiye
note: two new governorates - Aakar and Baalbek-Hermel - have been legislated but not yet implemented
22 November 1943 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 22 November (1943)
23 May 1926; amended a number of times, most recently in 1990 to include changes necessitated by the Charter of Lebanese National Reconciliation (Ta'if Accord) of October 1989
Legal system:
mixture of Ottoman law, canon law, Napoleonic code, and civil law; the constitutional court reviews laws only after they have been passed; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
21 years of age; compulsory for all males; authorized for women at age 21 with elementary education; excludes military personnel
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Michel SULAYMAN (since 25 May 2008)
head of government: Prime Minister Sa'ad al-Din al-HARIRI (since 9 November 2009); Deputy Prime Minister Elias MURR (since 9 November 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet chosen by the prime minister in consultation with the president and members of the National Assembly
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elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a six-year term (may not serve consecutive terms); election last held on 25 May 2008 (next to be held in 2014); the prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the president in consultation with the National Assembly
election results: Michel SULAYMAN elected president; National Assembly vote - 118 for, 6 abstentions, 3 invalidated; 1 seat unfilled due to death of incumbent
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Majlis al-Nuwab (Arabic) or Assemblee Nationale (French) (128 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of sectarian proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 7 June 2009 (next to be held in 2013)
election results: percent of vote by group - March 8 Coalition 54.7%, March 14 Coalition 45.3%; seats by group - March 14 Coalition 71; March 8 Coalition 57
Judicial branch:
four Courts of Cassation (three courts for civil and commercial cases and one court for criminal cases); Constitutional Council (called for in Ta'if Accord - rules on constitutionality of laws); Supreme Council (hears charges against the president and prime minister as needed)
Political parties and leaders:
14 March Coalition: Democratic Left [Ilyas ATALLAH]; Democratic Renewal Movement [Nassib LAHUD]; Future Movement Bloc [Sa'ad al-HARIRI]; Kataeb Party [Amine GEMAYEL]; Lebanese Forces [Samir JA'JA]; Tripoli Independent Bloc
8 March Coalition: Development and Resistance Bloc [Nabih BERRI, leader of Amal Movement]; Free Patriotic Movement [Michel AWN]; Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc [Mohammad RA'AD] (includes Hizballah [Hassan NASRALLAH]); Nasserite Popular Movement [Usama SAAD]; Popular Bloc [Elias SKAFF]; Syrian Ba'th Party [Sayez SHUKR]; Syrian Social Nationalist Party [Ali QANSO]; Tashnaq [Hovig MEKHITIRIAN]
Independent: Democratic Gathering Bloc [Walid JUNBLATT, leader of Progressive Socialist Party]; Metn Bloc [Michel MURR]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Maronite Church [Patriarch Nasrallah SFAYR]
other: note - most sects retain militias and a number of militant groups operate in Palestinian refugee camps
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Antoine CHEDID
chancery: 2560 28th Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 939-6300
FAX: [1] (202) 939-6324
consulate(s) general: Detroit, New York, Los Angeles
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Michele J. SISON
embassy: Awkar, Lebanon (Awkar facing the Municipality)
mailing address: P. O. Box 70-840, Antelias, Lebanon; from US: US Embassy Beirut, 6070 Beirut Place, Washington, DC 20521-6070
telephone: [961] (4) 542600, 543600
FAX: [961] (4) 544136
Flag description:
three horizontal bands consisting of red (top), white (middle, double width), and red (bottom) with a green cedar tree centered in the white band; the red bands symbolize blood shed for liberation, the white band denotes peace, the snow of the mountains, and purity; the green cedar tree is the symbol of Lebanon and represents eternity, steadiness, happiness, and prosperity
Economy ::Lebanon
Economy - overview:
Lebanon has a free-market economy and a strong laissez-faire commercial tradition. The government does not restrict foreign investment; however, the investment climate suffers from red tape, corruption, arbitrary licensing decisions, high taxes, tariffs, and fees, archaic legislation, and weak intellectual property rights. The Lebanese economy is service-oriented; main growth sectors include banking and tourism. The 1975-90 civil war seriously damaged Lebanon's economic infrastructure, cut national output by half, and all but ended Lebanon's position as a Middle Eastern entrepot and banking hub. In the years since, Lebanon has rebuilt much of its war-torn physical and financial infrastructure by borrowing heavily - mostly from domestic banks. In an attempt to reduce the ballooning national debt, the Rafiq HARIRI government in 2000 began an austerity program, reining in government expenditures, increasing revenue collection, and passing legislation to privatize state enterprises, but economic and financial reform initiatives stalled and public debt continued to grow despite receipt of more than $2 billion in bilateral assistance at the 2002 Paris II Donors Conference. The Israeli-Hizballah conflict in July-August 2006 caused an estimated $3.6 billion in infrastructure damage, and prompted international donors to pledge nearly $1 billion in recovery and reconstruction assistance. Donors met again in January 2007 at the Paris III Donor Conference and pledged more than $7.5 billion to Lebanon for development projects and budget support, conditioned on progress on Beirut's fiscal reform and privatization program. An 18-month political stalemate and sporadic sectarian and political violence hampered economic activity, particularly tourism, retail sales, and investment, until the new government was formed in July 2008. Political stability following the Doha Accord of May 2008 helped boost tourism and, together with a strong banking sector, enabled real GDP growth of 7% in 2009 despite a slowdown in the region.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$53.68 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 89
$50.17 billion (2008 est.)
$46.45 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$33.04 billion (2009 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
7% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7
8% (2008 est.)
7.5% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$13,100 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 85
$12,400 (2008 est.)
$11,900 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5.4%
industry: 16.7%
services: 77.9% (2009 est.)
Labor force:
1.481 million
country comparison to the world: 131
note: in addition, there are as many as 1 million foreign workers (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%
Unemployment rate:
9.2% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 109
Population below poverty line:
28% (1999 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Investment (gross fixed):
29.8% of GDP (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26
revenues: $8.427 billion
expenditures: $11.39 billion (2009 est.)
Public debt:
156% of GDP (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
160% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
3.4% (2009)
country comparison to the world: 111
10.8% (2008)
Central bank discount rate:
10% (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 25
12% (31 December 2008)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
9.62% (30 November 2009)
country comparison to the world: 92
9.96% (31 December 2008)
Stock of money:
$3.212 billion (30 November 2009)
country comparison to the world: 81
$2.832 billion (31 December 2008)
Stock of quasi money:
$77.8 billion (30 November 2009)
country comparison to the world: 29
$65.8 billion (31 December 2008)
Stock of domestic credit:
$57.1 billion (30 November 2009)
country comparison to the world: 51
$50.6 billion (31 December 2008)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$12.89 billion (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 68
$9.641 billion (31 December 2008)
$10.86 billion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture - products:
citrus, grapes, tomatoes, apples, vegetables, potatoes, olives, tobacco; sheep, goats
banking, tourism, food processing, wine, jewelry, cement, textiles, mineral and chemical products, wood and furniture products, oil refining, metal fabricating
Industrial production growth rate:
0.7% (2009)
country comparison to the world: 67
Electricity - production:
10.41 billion kWh (2009)
country comparison to the world: 90
Electricity - consumption:
9.793 billion kWh (2009)
country comparison to the world: 87
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2009 est.)
Electricity - imports:
1.114 billion kWh (2009 est.)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 156
Oil - consumption:
90,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 78
Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2009)
country comparison to the world: 188
Oil - imports:
86,750 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 71
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 161
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 121
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154
Current account balance:
-$3.682 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 164
-$3.399 billion (2008 est.)
$3.5 billion (2009)
country comparison to the world: 118
$3.47 billion (2008)
Exports - commodities:
jewelry, base metals, chemicals, miscellaneous consumer goods, fruit and vegetables, tobacco, construction minerals, electric power machinery and switchgear, textile fibers, paper
Exports - partners:
Syria 26.04%, UAE 14.46%, Saudi Arabia 6.87%, Switzerland 5.97% (2009)
$16.41 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 74
$16.31 billion (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities:
petroleum products, cars, medicinal products, clothing, meat and live animals, consumer goods, paper, textile fabrics, tobacco, electrical machinery and equipment, chemicals
Imports - partners:
France 10.84%, US 9.44%, Syria 9.42%, Italy 7.01%, China 6.91%, Germany 5.43%, Ukraine 4.55%, Turkey 4.5% (2009)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$39.16 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 42
$28.28 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$21.11 billion (30 November 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 65
$21.14 billion (31 December 2008)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
Exchange rates:
Lebanese pounds (LBP) per US dollar - 1,507.5 (2009), 1,507.5 (2008), 1,507.5 (2007), 1,507.5 (2006), 1,507.5 (2005)
Communications ::Lebanon
Telephones - main lines in use:
714,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 89
Telephones - mobile cellular:
1.43 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 136
Telephone system:
general assessment: repair of the telecommunications system, severely damaged during the civil war, now complete
domestic: two mobile-cellular networks provide good service; combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular subscribership exceeds 50 per 100 persons
international: country code - 961; submarine cable links to Cyprus, Egypt, and Syria; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Atlantic Ocean); coaxial cable to Syria (2008)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 20, FM 30 (plus about a dozen unlicensed stations operating), shortwave 4 (2009)
Television broadcast stations:
12 (2009)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
45,352 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 86
Internet users:
2.19 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 67
Transportation ::Lebanon
7 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 167
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 5
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2009)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2009)
gas 43 km (2009)
total: 401 km
country comparison to the world: 119
standard gauge: 319 km 1.435 m
narrow gauge: 82 km 1.050 m
note: rail system unusable because of the damage done during fighting in the 1980s and in 2006 (2008)
total: 6,970 km (includes 170 km of expressways) (2005)
country comparison to the world: 147
Merchant marine:
total: 33
country comparison to the world: 84
by type: bulk carrier 3, cargo 13, carrier 11, passenger/cargo 1, refrigerated cargo 1, roll on/roll off 2, vehicle carrier 2
foreign-owned: 4 (Greece 2, Syria 2)
registered in other countries: 55 (Barbados 1, Cambodia 8, Comoros 4, Cyprus 1, Egypt 1, Georgia 4, Honduras 1, Italy 1, North Korea 1, Liberia 2, Malta 11, Mongolia 2, Panama 5, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6, Sierra Leone 1, Syria 3, Togo 1, unknown 2) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Beirut, Tripoli
Military ::Lebanon
Military branches:
Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF): Army ((Al Jaysh al Lubnaniya) includes Navy (Al Quwwat al Bahiriyya al Lubnaniya), Air Force (Al Quwwat al Jawwiya al Lubnaniya)) (2010)
Military service age and obligation:
18-30 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2007)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,075,503
females age 16-49: 1,112,139 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 917,404
females age 16-49: 940,238 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 37,856
female: 36,072 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
3.1% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 41
Transnational Issues ::Lebanon
Disputes - international:
lacking a treaty or other documentation describing the boundary, portions of the Lebanon-Syria boundary are unclear with several sections in dispute; since 2000, Lebanon has claimed Shab'a Farms area in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights; the roughly 2,000-strong UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been in place since 1978
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
refugees (country of origin): 405,425 (Palestinian refugees (UNRWA)); 50,000-60,000 (Iraq)
IDPs: 17,000 (1975-90 civil war, Israeli invasions); 200,000 (July-August 2006 war) (2007)
Illicit drugs:
cannabis cultivation dramatically reduced to 2,500 hectares in 2002 despite continued significant cannabis consumption; opium poppy cultivation minimal; small amounts of Latin American cocaine and Southwest Asian heroin transit country on way to European markets and for Middle Eastern consumption; money laundering of drug proceeds fuels concern that extremists are benefiting from drug trafficking

Source: The World Factbook (CIA)