A country of southwest Asia on the Mediterranean Sea. The site of ancient Phoenicia, the region was gradually absorbed by the Persian Empire and later conquered by Alexander the Great. Eventually it came under Roman control and was Christianized before the Arab conquest of the 7th century. Part of the Ottoman Empire from the early 16th century, Lebanon became a French League of Nations mandate after World War I and proclaimed its independence in 1941, although full self-government was not achieved until 1945. Tensions between Christians and Muslims led (1975) to civil war, which finally came to an end in 1991. Beirut is the capital and the largest city. Population: 3,930,000.