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Rafik Hariri

Hariri, Rafik or Rafiq (räfēkˈ härēˈrē) [key], 1944–2005, Lebanese tycoon and political leader, b. Sidon. The son of a poor Sunni Muslim farmer, he moved to Saudi Arabia in 1965. After teaching mathematics there, he formed (1969) his own construction company and amassed a fortune building for public and private clients. Hariri returned (1990) to Lebanon and served (1992–98) as prime minister. He was largely responsible for reconstructing war-ravaged Beirut, which left the nation with significant public debt. Becoming prime minister again in 2000, he promoted economic reform and reduced government bureaucracy, but left office (2004) after opposing Syria's domination of the government. Hariri died in a car bombing in Beirut. Both Syrian and Lebanese officials were initially implicated in his assassination, but prosecutors for a joint UN-Lebanese tribunal on the crime ultimately indicted (2011–13) several members of Hezbollah.

His second son, Saad Hariri, 1971–, is also a Lebanese businessman and politician; he was born in Saudi Arabia and raised there. He handled the family's business in Saudi Arabia prior to his father's assassination, after which he took over the Hariri business empire and entered Lebanese politics as the leader of his father's Future Movement party. Following the 2009 elections, Saad Hariri became prime minister, ultimately as the head of a national unity government. In 2011 his government fell after Hezbollah and its allies withdrew over the government's cooperation with the special tribunal investigating Rafiq Hariri's murder.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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