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Lebanon a nation that once proudly called itself the Switzerland of the Middle East is today a country in name only Its government controls little more than half of the nations capital Beirut Its once-vibrant economy is a shambles And its society is fragmented - so fragmented some believe that it may be impossible to re-create a unified state responsive to the needs of all its varied peoples Lebanon lies on the eastern shore of the Mediterranea n Sea in that part of southwestern Asia known as the Middle East Because of its location - at the crossroads of Asia Europe and Africa - Lebanon has been the center of commerce and trade for thousands of years It has also been on the route of numerous conquering armies With an area of 4015 square miles Lebanon is one of the smallest countries in the Middle East It is smaller than every state in the United States except Delaware Rhode Island and Connecticut Lebanon is sandwiched between Syria in the north and east and Israel in the south The maximum distance from the nations northern border to the southern one is only 130 miles And the maximum distance from the Mediterranean Sea to the Lebanon-Syria border is 50 miles In the south along the border with Israel Lebanons eastern border is only 20 miles from the sea Although a tiny land Lebanon boasts a great diversity in its landscape which makes it one of the most picturesque countries in the world The coast line is br oken by many bays and inlets of varying size At some points the mountains wade silently right into the sea - then climb suddenly tier on tier away from the Mediterranean to the sky Because of the limitation of flat agricultural land all but the steepest hillsides have been patiently and neatly terraced and planted with garlands of twisted grapevines The mountains lend a
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