15 March 2005

Lebanese Statesman Rafik Hariri accomplished in his death what he had tried in vain all his life. Whatever the criminals who murdered him so vengefully intended, the outcome was an outpouring of unity among Lebanese of all factions.

"We want the truth" was the rallying cry. The withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanese territory became a priority. As a politician and Prime Minister for about 12 years, he tried to accommodate all powerful players, particularly, of course, Damascus. He walked a fine thin line between asserting his official power as Prime Minister and maintaining his status as a leader while always pursuing his dream of rebuilding Beirut. He loved his country, respected its neighbours and opened lively channels to the world. A practical supporter of the United Nations, he was behind building an impressive site in downtown central to become a unified U.N. compound. One of his amazing international feats was his close personal friendship with French President Jacques Chirac, while maintaining special admiration by senior American officials. He tried several times to bring the two presidents closer. After his violent death, the U.S. and French presidents met in Brussels with the situation in Lebanon as a main priority. Rafik Hariri lived a dynamic and full life. A billionaire who contributed generously to the poor, he was keen not only on thoughtful help but on human development. As a politician, he did what politicians do. But there was more to him than met the headlines. He was a genuine man of the people, his people. He lived like a statesman and died a hero. God bless his soul.