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Lebanon remembers Hariri

A year after his death, the country remains divided.

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Lebanon's Cedar revolutionaries returned to the streets here Tuesday, transforming the city center into a swaying sea of red and white national flags as the country marked the anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The rally, which drew as many as 1 million, echoed last spring's huge anti-Syrian protests spurred by Mr. Hariri's murder that compelled Damascus to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. The Syrian disengagement was supposed to usher in a new era of independence from Damascus's embrace.

Yet a year on, Lebanon is deeply divided, split by a resurgent sectarianism, threatened by a growing Al Qaeda presence, and torn by competing political visions over the future direction of the country.

This country is once more becoming a battleground in a broader struggle for control of the Middle East, pitting the axis of Iran, Syria, and Lebanon's powerful Hizbullah organization against the influence of the West, chiefly the US, Britain, and France.

"Lebanon will be engulfed again in a huge power game that will last quite a long time. This is the tragic destiny of Lebanon," says Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druze community.

Twelve months after his death, the shadow of the billionaire construction tycoon and politician continues to loom over a country that saw the heady optimism of last spring's Independence Uprising, often called the Cedar Revolution, turn into disillusion, political turmoil, and bloodshed.

From dozens of newly erected billboards, Hariri's face gazes benevolently out over a city that he helped rebuild from the ruins of the 1975-1990 civil war. "They feared you and killed you," reads one sign. At one junction, an electronic counter ticks away the number of days in red numerals since Hariri died along with 22 others when a van packed with nearly a ton of TNT exploded beside his motorcade in central Beirut.

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