This article was published by IRIN on 15 January
These are worrying times for Lebanon; in late December a bomb exploded in the capital, Beirut, killing a former finance minister as well as at least four others. Days later, on 2 January, a car bomb in a southern suburb of the city killed five.
Though the attacks were far from the first to afflict the country, they did suggest that 2014 could be another difficult year as the small Mediterranean state seeks to maintain a fragile peace.
The country is in many ways a prisoner to wider regional trends; the civil war next door in Syria is increasing tension at home, while the political and sectarian polarization seen across the Middle East is playing out in the religiously diverse state. The country is also approaching political paralysis; it has gone without a government since March 2013, as the two rival factions, 14 March and 8 March, engage in seemingly fruitless negotiations.
In this context, one could forgive Lebanese for not wanting anything else that might cause further dispute. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), due to finally start on Thursday, is just that.
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