Middle East: The Day the Doors Closed

Little Lebanon, an oasis of stability and old-fashioned economic freedom in the impoverished and riotous Middle East, prospers not only by trade but as a money market. In less than two decades, its bustling capital of Beirut has grown into the world's newest financial center, the shrewd regional banker to everybody from wealthy Arab sheiks to huge U.S. oil companies. Last week, in a crisis that shook the country's fiscal structure to the bottom of its vaults, Lebanon was forced to shut its 93 banks for three days.

The trouble began when...

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