Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri met last Thursday with the Parliament's Speaker Berri. Though details of their talks were not disclosed, a source close to both said that Hariri briefed Berri on his meeting with Colonel Bashar Assad, the son of Syria's president Hafez al Asad,on Wednesday in Damascus and earlier talks with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris. Hariri, now a Beirut MP, returned after a stay in France, where he met with Chirac twice. Hariri also conferred with Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Ali Sobhani at Koraytem on the latest developments in Southern Lebanon.
Lebanon's former Prime Minster Rafik Al-Hariri was born in Sidon, Lebanon in 1944. He completed his high-school education there in 1964 and enrolled in the Arab University in Beirut. Two years later he went to Saudi Arabia and joined a contracting company. Within five years, he established his own company, SCONEAST. In 1978, he founded OGER-SAUDI ARABIA, and the next year he established OGER-INTERNATIONAL, through the acquisition of a French Company. In 1983, Mr. Hariri acquired the MIG group, which included banks in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, as well as companies active in the fields of insurance, computer, publishing, light industry and others. Since his return to Lebanon in 1978 he engaged himself in the country's politics. He was brought in as prime minister in 1992, two years after the end of the civil war. Although a businessman unrelated to the traditional political establishment, he had more power than his predecessors due to the implementation of the Taif Agreement.
After the election of Emile Lahoud as president of Lebanon, Hariri resigned as Prime Minister in December 1998. Until his resignation in 1998 he had followed a practical approach to consolidating postwar Lebanon.
Beirut's airport, the coastal highway, the new motorway to the Syrian border, the rehabilitation of the telecommunications network and, the reconstruction of Beirut's city center were all part of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri's program of the infrastructure's development. Which intended to make Lebanon a regional center of finance and services.
As the owner of a vast media empire - comprising two television channels (a local and a satellite channel, Future-TV/Al-Mostaqbal), two radio stations (Izaat As-Sharq and Radio Orient, braodcasting from Paris), an influential weekly (Al-Mostaqbal) and a 38% participation in one of the major Lebanese newspaper (An-Nahar) - Hariri will certainly continue to play an important role in Lebanese politics.
Mr. Hariri is still well known for his phylantropic activities, particularly in the reconstruction of Lebanon, education and general social welfare. Among many others, he established in 1979, the Islamic Institute of Higher Education in his native town of Sidon and, after the armed conflict in Lebanon ended, he undertook the rehabilitation of the town itself. During the war, his OGER-LEBANON rehabilitated several times major parts of the city of Beirut. He also undertook the rehabilitation of Tripoli, the second largest city in the country. He founded the Al-Hariri Foundation in Lebanon, with branches in France, the UK, and the United States, a non-profit organization that provided loans to more than 30,000 Lebanese students to complete their education. two high schools in Beirut belong to Mr. Hariri: The Lycee Abdelkader and the Hariri High School (formerly the Evangelical School). At Kfar Falous in the South of the Country, Mr. Al-Hariri built a medical and educational complex containing a high school, a vocational school, an engineering college, a medical college and a large sports center.
Hariri remains one of the richest men in the region. Last year, seven Arab billionaires held combined wealth valued at $35.9 billion, or an average of $5.1 billion. By 1999, Forbes listed 10 Arab billionaires, whose combined wealth stood at $44.8 billion. Rafiq Hariri was listed in fourth place just behind Saudi’s Prince Alwaleed, Saudi Arabia's Suleiman Olayan, Kuwait's Nasser Al Kharafi, Saudi Arabia's Saleh Kamel.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)