Saturday, February 03, 2007

Lebanon's brain drain alarm

By Kim Ghattas
BBC News, Beirut

Two years ago, Ossama Kabbani was the poster boy for the newly rebuilt downtown Beirut.

In a slick television promotion put out by the ministry of tourism, over breathtaking pictures of the Lebanese capital and Lebanon, the architect and urban planner talked about how he put his soul into the glitzy project.

He had returned from the US in 1991, after the devastating, 15-year long civil war ended, and embarked on his dream: to help put Lebanon and Beirut back on the map with what he described in the advertisement as "the single largest renovation project on earth".

"Ten years ago, we had a dream, and now we're seeing the dream come true," he also said in the television spot, explaining that everything had been rebuilt and tourists were flocking back.

But the dream came crashing down last summer, on 12 July, when two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and eight others killed by Hezbollah, Lebanon's guerrilla movement and political party.

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