Lebanon's Palestinians: refugees for life

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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's visit to Beirut on Monday casts the spotlight on the plight of nearly 300,000 Palestinians in Lebanon who fear they are doomed to be refugees for life.

His brief trip comes amid renewed efforts to revive the Middle East peace process and concern in Lebanon's political circles that any deal struck on the refugee issue would be at the expense of the Lebanese...

... The majority of the refugees arrived in Lebanon following the creation of Israel in 1948. A second wave arrived in the 1970s after Jordan's then king Hussein kicked out the Palestine Liberation Organisation and thousands of its fighters.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) lists nearly 400,000 refugees in Lebanon.

But Lebanese and Palestinian officials say the number actually resident in Lebanon may be as low as 250,000 as UNRWA does not strike off its figures Palestinians who move to other countries...

... For the Lebanese, any mention of permanently settling the Palestinians in the tiny Mediterranean country prompts an outcry and warnings that this would upset the country's confessional balance and further exacerbate political divisions.

Fresh in the minds of many is the key role the Palestinians played in Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, Israel's 1982 assault on Beirut and, more recently, the deadly 2007 battle at a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon between an Al-Qaeda-inspired group and the Lebanese army.

But specialists and human rights groups warn that unless the refugee issue is addressed, the camps, already considered breeding grounds for extremism, could one day explode...

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