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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Lebanon recalls bloody conflict
By Kim Ghattas
BBC News, Beirut

Lebanese horseriders with national flag in procession at National Unity festival
The festival is mostly being attended by opposition supporters
Lebanon is commemorating the start of its 15-year long civil war, a conflict which ravaged the country and pitted Lebanon's different religious communities against each other.

It is the first time the start of the war is being marked in Beirut, where a national unity festival has been organised.

During the last 15 years of peace, the anniversary of the war went by almost unnoticed.

But this year, there is no ignoring it.

Posters have been put up across Lebanon calling on people to unite, while clips on television remind the Lebanese of the horrors of war with the message "never again".

Peace march

The festival was organised by Nora Jumblatt, the wife of Druze opposition leader Walid Jumblatt, and Bahiyya Hariri, sister of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister who was assassinated two months ago.

The event has a definite opposition feel to it and pro-government politicians have been mostly absent.

But the six-day festival has attracted thousands of Lebanese eager to take part in this first stab at national reconciliation.

There has been a unity run in the newly-rebuilt heart of Beirut, while joint Muslim and Christian prayers were held on Tuesday night.

A competition has been launched to create a memorial for the 150,000 people who died during the conflict.

And a peace march will also take place along the demarcation line which separated east and west Beirut during the war.

The festival will end with a concert by the popular singer, Majida Rumi, known for her patriotic songs.


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