Timeline: Lebanon's ordeal: Economic and political crises since civil war


  • World
  • Wednesday, 13 May 2020

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni gestures as he speaks during an interview with Reuters in Beirut, Lebanon March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon begins negotiations with the International Monetary Fund this week, seeking the IMF's financial assistance for the first time as the country grapples with an acute financial crisis.

The negotiations mark a new phase in a crisis seen as the biggest threat to Lebanon's stability since the 1975-90 civil war.

With hard currency growing ever more scarce, the Lebanese pound has more than halved in value since October, depositors have been blocked from withdrawing savings and inflation and unemployment have soared in the import-dependent economy.

Here are Lebanon's main previous post-war upheavals.

2005

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri is killed on Feb. 14 when a massive bomb exploded as his motorcade travelled through Beirut; 21 others also died.

A combination of subsequent mass demonstrations and international pressure force Syria to withdraw troops from Lebanon. Lebanese Shi'ite allies of Damascus stage their own big rallies in support of Syria.

Lebanon enters a new era free of Syrian domination. Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group and close ally of Damascus, enters government for the first time.

2006

In July, Hezbollah crosses the border into Israel, kidnaps two Israeli soldiers and kills others, sparking a five-week war. At least 1,200 people in Lebanon and 158 Israelis are killed.

After the war, tensions in Lebanon simmer over Hezbollah's powerful arsenal. In November, Hezbollah and its allies quit the cabinet led by Western-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and organise street protests against it.

2007

Hezbollah and its allies maintain a sit-in protest against the Siniora government for the entire year. Their stated demand is veto power in the government.

In May, fighting erupts at a Palestinian camp in northern Lebanon between the Lebanese army and Sunni Islamist militants of the Fatah al-Islam group. Thousands of Palestinian refugees are forced to flee the Nahr al-Bared camp. In September, Lebanese troops seize control of the camp after more than three months of fighting that kills more than 300 people.

2008

May 6, 2008 - Siniora's cabinet accuses Hezbollah of running a private telecoms network and installing spy cameras at Beirut airport. The cabinet vows legal action against the network.

May 7 - Hezbollah said the move against its telecoms network was a declaration of war by the government. After a brief conflict Hezbollah takes control of mainly Muslim west Beirut.

May 21 - After mediation, rival leaders sign a deal in Qatar to end 18 months of political conflict. Parliament elects Michel Suleiman, the army chief, as president.

2011

In January, Saad al-Hariri's first government is toppled when Hezbollah and its allies quit because of tensions over the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The tribunal later indicts four senior members of Hezbollah for the murder of Rafik al-Hariri. Hezbollah denies any role in the assassination. Its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said the authorities would not be able to find the indicted men.

A fifth Hezbollah member is indicted in 2013.

2012

Hezbollah fighters deploy into Syria, secretly at first, to aid Syrian government forces facing a mostly Sunni rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. The group plays a major role in beating back the rebellion.

2015

A crisis about waste erupts when authorities close the main landfill site near Beirut, having arranged no alternative. Large protests broke out as rotting waste filled streets and demonstrators chanted "You stink!" at the government. It became a glaring symbol of the failures of a sectarian power system unable to meet basic needs like electricity and water.

2017

Saad al-Hariri's ties with Saudi Arabia, which is furious at Hezbollah's expanding role in Lebanon, hit a nadir in November 2017 when it was widely acknowledged Riyadh had forced him to resign and held him in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia and Hariri publicly deny this version of events, though France's Emmanuel Macron confirmed that Hariri was being held in Saudi Arabia.

2019

Amid a stagnant economy and slowing capital inflows, the government is under pressure to curb a massive budget deficit.

Proposals to cut the state wage and pension bill meet stiff opposition. The government vows to enact long-delayed reforms but fails to make progress that might unlock foreign support.

Oct. 17 - A government move to tax internet calls ignites big protests against the ruling elite. Lebanese of all sects take part, accusing leaders of corruption and economic mismanagement.

Hariri quits on Oct. 29, against the wishes of Hezbollah. Lebanon is left rudderless as the crisis deepens. A hard- currency liquidity crunch leads banks to impose tight curbs on cash withdrawals and transfers abroad.

2020

After two months of talks to form a new, Hariri-led coalition government hit a dead end, Hezbollah and its allies back Hassan Diab, a little-known academic and former education minister, for the post of prime minister.

March 7 - Diab announces Lebanon cannot repay a maturing bond and calls for negotiations to restructure its debt.

May 1 - Beirut signs a formal request for IMF assistance after approving a plan setting out vast losses in the financial system. The banking association rejects the plan, saying its proposals for restructuring the banking sector would further destroy confidence in Lebanon.

(Writing by Tom Perry and William Maclean; editing by Catherine Evans, Larry King)

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