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Lebanon is named for the major mountain range that runs north to south through the middle of the country.

The Cedars of Lebanon, famous since Biblical times, are now protected in a few mountain groves.

Various government offices are still reserved for specific sects: the prime minister is always a Sunni Muslim; the president is always a Maronite, and the speaker of the house is always a Shiite.

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As a witness to the rise and fall of the Mesopotamian, Hittite, Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and Greek empires, Lebanon has a distinct history. C., the Canaanites, who became known as Phoenicians, were the first inhabitants of Lebanon.

Originally, the ratio was six to five, Christian to Muslim.

Since 1992, power has been shared equally by both groups.

Christians, who account for under two-fifths of the total Lebanese population, include the Maronites (the most numerous and the most powerful) at 22 percent, the Eastern Orthodox at 10 percent; Melkites (Greek Catholics) and Armenians, each at 6 percent, and Protestants at 2.5 percent.

Through Lebanon's unwritten National Pact of 1943, political power was apportioned between Christians and Muslims.

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