TONY JONES: Well, joining me now is Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the Independent newspaper. For more than 25 years, Robert Fisk has lived in Lebanon, writing on war and politics across the region. And he was one of only a small group of Western journalists to remain in Lebanon throughout the civil war, which ended in 1991. He joins me now from Beirut. Recent developments in Lebanon have been greeted with great enthusiasm in Washington, but you’re much more cautious. In fact, recently you quoted one of your old friends as saying ‘There is fire under the ashes; we must all take care?’ What are you worried about?

ROBERT FISK: Well, I think all Lebanese live under the shadow of the ghosts of the civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990 and took the live of 150,000 people. And I think that the real danger is that with the Syrian withdrawal, well, there are two dangers. With the Syrian withdrawal, there will be, within the Syrian intelligence community, possibly, an attempt to re-provoke those old ghosts of the civil war, with bombs, with violence. Much more dangerous is the possibility, which I’m already seeing here in Lebanon, of the various groups factionalising themselves in the aftermath of the murder of Rafik Hariri. I’ve noticed how, for example, the pro-Hariri demonstrators demanding the withdrawal of the Syrians in the evening are becoming more and more Christian Marinite and less and less Muslim. I couldn’t help but notice that in the huge Hezbollah demonstration in the last 24 hours, in which Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah spoke, virtually everybody in that demonstration was a Shiia Muslim. That demonstration was allegedly expressing its gratitude to Syria, although the Hezbollah are not that grateful to Syria in real life. We’re seeing that the various aftermath demonstrations and political events that followed from the murder of Hariri are taking on a sectarian character and that is very, very dangerous in Lebanon.

TONY JONES: Are things so delicately poised that we could see a return to sectarian violence even civil war?

ROBERT FISK: Well, I hope not, because I live here and I’ve been enjoying the last 11-14 years of peace, and primarily, of course, because of Rafik Hariri. He was Mr Lebanon and tragically he never groomed anyone to follow him. I think the hope for Lebanon is that during the war, many thousands, tens of thousands of Lebanese, sent their children abroad to be educated. They’ve come back as young men and young women who have been well educated in Geneva, London, New York, even Australia, without any time at all for the old sectarian politics. If one can put one’s hope in these people, then there will not be a return to civil war. But when I listen to the language of some of the speakers, including the ex-President, who started talking about some people who don’t deserve to be in Lebanon - that makes me very worried indeed. ~Australian Broadcasting Corp.

This possibility of renewed civil war ought to be the main concern of all parties intervening in the situation in Lebanon. Unfortunately, U.S. and French intervention have so far managed to bring things to the polarised state they are now in today. Those interested in the welfare of the Lebanese people will leave them to sort out their own affairs, including how best to achieve a Syrian withdrawal or how to keep the Syrians in the country, unless they wish to be responsible for provoking a needless conflict in a country that has already suffered enough in one generation.