The New Beirut

Dan Rather Reports On Lebanon's Fledgling Democracy

It's hard work establishing democracy in a place where leaders live in fear of assassination. But that's what it's like in Iraq and in the fledgling democracy of Lebanon, where a dozen car bombings have killed nearly 40 people in the last year alone. The latest was just two weeks ago.

It came at a time when a new, freely-elected government is struggling to establish itself against all odds and against old adversaries like Syria.

60 Minutes is calling this story the "New Beirut" because the Lebanese capital, now a prosperous and sophisticated city on the Mediterranean, has become the symbol of the difficult transition from the old ways of violence and civil war to democracy and independence.

Correspondent Dan Rather reports.



At first glance, the "new" Beirut is chic and cosmopolitan. It is often called the "Paris of the Middle East." Beirut is a place where yesterday and today exist side by side, sometimes in the same person.

Everything is up-to-date in new Beirut but there's more to the city than cafes and shops. There's construction everywhere, and business is humming. There's a free press and a vibrant culture.

It is all the vision of one man: Rafik Hariri. Born poor in southern Lebanon, Hariri made billions in construction in Saudi Arabia and first became prime minister of Lebanon in 1992.

"I used to see in my father's eyes what he wanted Lebanon to look like. And I used to see what he wanted it to be," remembers Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri's 35-year-old son.

Saad Hariri used to run the family's multi-billion-dollar business in Saudi Arabia. 60 Minutes met him in Beirut, the city his father invested billions in rebuilding.

Hariri acknowledges there is clearly some nervousness and anxiety beneath the surface of this bustling, cosmopolitan city and says he doesn't know if the bad old days are over for good. "Because, in our region in the Middle East, there are still a lot of bad intentions," he says.

Those bad intentions became evident last Valentine's Day, when Rafik Hariri's six-car, heavily-armored motorcade was intercepted in downtown Beirut by a pick-up truck carrying a ton of high explosives.

The ultra-wealthy Hariri had the best security money could buy but it wasn't enough. He and 19 others were killed; dozens were injured.

The explosion shook the Middle East and left the Hariri family despondent and angry.

"There's a lot of hatred in me for those who committed this crime. But I believe justice has to come out,"

Does he feel the need for revenge in his heart?

"Justice is revenge," he says.

But justice isn't Saad Hariri's top priority: survival is. During the time 60 Minutes spent with him in Beirut, Hariri was constantly surrounded by a cocoon of security, because following in his father's political footsteps can be dangerous.

"It's his legacy that killed him. And I'm following his legacy. So there's a risk, and I'm willing to take it," he says.
  • Daniel Schorn

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