Al-Hariri, Rafiq (Lebanon)
A Sunni Muslim and billionaire businessman, Rafiq al-Hariri took office as prime minister for a second time in Oct. 2000, having previously served as premier and minister of finance from 1992–98. He has been credited with the rebuilding of Beirut during the 1990s. He resigned in 2004.
Al-Hariri was born in Sidon on 1 Nov. 1944. Having graduated from the Arab University of Beirut, he emigrated to Saudi Arabia in 1965, to work as a teacher. He then became a successful entrepreneur, particularly in engineering and construction, with an international reputation. Using his wealth, he set up the Hariri Foundation, a philanthropic organization supporting social and educational development projects. His political career started in 1983–84 when he took part in conferences in Lausanne and Geneva in Switzerland aiming to end the conflict in Lebanon. In 1989 he was involved in the successful negotiations leading to the Taif Accord for national conciliation, which was voted into the constitution of the Lebanese second republic the following year.
In Oct. 1992 al-Hariri became prime minister following the first elections to the National Assembly (adapted to reflect the sectarian balance) since 1972. He made the rehabilitation of the country’s infrastructure, particularly in Beirut, a government priority, implementing a multi-billion dollar reconstruction programme but incurring a high level of public debt at the same time. He continued in office following parliamentary elections in 1996, but stood down in Dec.1998 amid differences with President Lahoud and allegations of government corruption. Voter dissatisfaction with the government of his successor was reflected in the National Assembly elections of Aug.–Sept. 2000, and Hariri was reappointed prime minister on 23 Oct. 2000. However, he resigned on 20 Oct. 2004 following differences over the extension to President Lahoud’s period in office. Al-Hariri was killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut on 14 Feb. 2005.