Marking this year's anniversary, the bullet-scarred bus was displayed at a former crossing point on the line that separated Beirut's Christian and Muslim communities during the war which was the focus of many violent clashes.

 

Marking this year's anniversary, the bullet-scarred bus was displayed at a former crossing point on the line that separated Beirut's Christian and Muslim communities during the war.

Ibrahim Eid, a Lebanese civil society coordinator, said the bus was "a symbol of this day and should "raise awareness after what we've seen in the last year."

 

Stark similarities

 

There are indeed similarities between the situation today and the period of Lebanon's civil war.

 

Sectarian tensions are out in the open and Lebanese newspapers are filled with the grim warnings issued by rival politicians - some even involved in the civil war - that their opponents are arming themselves for battle.

 

"We don't want civil war ... No one wants to burn down his country over political differences"

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader

The situation seemed especially perilous in January when nine people were killed in sectarian violence between government and opposition supporters.

 

The 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister, by a massive truck bomb in Beirut sparked large demonstrations demanding the withdrawal of Syrian troops and an end in their interference in Lebanese politics.

 

Since then, a series of bombs have targeted politicians, journalists and commercial centers dividing Lebanon in the process.

 

The opposition, led by Hezbollah - the Shia social and military movement - has camped outside the office of Fuad Saniora, the prime minister, since December last year in an effort to force him to step down, and six members of the opposition have resigned from the Cabinet.

 

Nabih Berri, parliament speaker and a Hezbollah ally, has refused to convene parliament, and both he and president Emile Lahoud no longer recognise the legitimacy of the Cabinet.

 

Tribunal

 

The investigation into Hariri's assassination is yet another issue pulling the government apart.

 

The UN Security Council has authorised the creation of tribunal to try the suspects, but the opposition has refused to endorse it.

 

In response, the government has asked the Security Council to impose the court, a request New York has said it is studying.

 

"No one wants to start a civil war. No one has an interest"

Joseph Abu Khalil, Philange deputy leader

Analysts warn the current political crisis could leave the country with two rival governments to battle each other, as was the case in the last two years of the civil war.

 

Both the government and opposition are sticking to their positions, drawing strength from ties to foreign powers.

 

The government is banking on support from the US and its allies, while the opposition is backed by Syria and Iran, key opponents of Washington's policy in the Middle East.

 

However, none of the major political parties advocate going back to a time when kidnappings, car bombs, mortars and assassination were regularly used to subdue the other side.

 

While Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned at a rally last week that political solutions were at a dead end, he said he would not resort to violence.

 

"We don't want civil war ... No one wants to burn down his country over political differences," said the leader of the force that fought Israel in last summer's war and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States but supported by a majority in Lebanon.

 

'Joy of Living'

 

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On the Christian side, a deputy leader of the Phalange Party, which led the Christian militias during the civil war - blamed by many for the Sabra and Shatila massacres - discounts a rekindling of the conflict despite the rising tensions.

 

"No one wants to start a civil war. No one has an interest," said Joseph Abu Khalil in an interview on LBC television on Thursday.

 

In this spirit, the Lebanese group Joy of Giving has asked citizens to assemble in downtown Beirut on Friday to remember the civil war's outbreak in "a day of prayers, forgiveness, unity and a return to dialogue".

 

However, many analysts predict the violence and instability that has plagued the country for the past two years will continue, even if it falls short of all-out war.