Lebanese Hopes Pinned to Reluctant Billionaire

Can a $2.3B fortune keep Saad Hariri alive long enough to become PM?
By Heather McPherson,  Newser User
Posted Aug 14, 2007 8:40 AM CDT
Lebanese Hopes Pinned to Reluctant Billionaire
Saad Hariri, right, leader of the anti-Syrian majority bloc in parliament prays at the coffin of lawmaker Walid Eido in a Mosque in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, June 14, 2007. Tens of thousands bade farewell on Thursday to victims of a powerful car bombing that killed the prominent anti-Syrian legislator...   (Associated Press)

Portfolio profiles Saad Hariri, the billionaire who now leads Lebanon's pro-Western majority party and America's last, best Middle Eastern hope. Hariri, pulled into politics when his former-PM father was assassinated in 2005, spends most of his days barricaded inside his Beirut mansion, trying to avoid being murdered by Hezbollah guerrillas.

Hariri could become PM—if he can survive sectarian violence and his own costly blunders—like a $4,000-per-night  "safety" stint in a Paris hotel following the 2005 elections. That would be great news for the US, who sees the one-time construction magnate as its most natural ally in the region. But Hariri seems reluctant to step fully into the leadership vacuum his father left behind. "This was not a choice," he says. (More Saad al-Hariri stories.)

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