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Cablegate: Kouchner Expected to Meet Iranian Counterpart At

VZCZCXRO4039
OO RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #3956/01 2640945
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 210945Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0328
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 003956

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/20/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PARM FR IR
SUBJECT: KOUCHNER EXPECTED TO MEET IRANIAN COUNTERPART AT
UNGA BUT NOT SARKOZY

REF: A. (A) PARIS POINTS 20 SEPTEMBER 2007

B. (B) PARIS 3668

Classified By: Acting Political Minister-Counselor Andrew Young for rea
sons 1.4. (b), (d).

1. (C) During a September 19 call on French MFA
DAS-equivalent for the Levant Ludovic Pouille, we asked
whether he had heard anything that might indicate FM Kouchner
or any other French officials planned to meet with Iranian
President Ahmadi Nejad in New York. Pouille shook his head
no on Ahmadi Nejad, but he stated that Kouchner is scheduled
to meet with his Iranian counterpart on the margins of the
UNGA.

2. (C) Although Pouille does not cover Iran, he stated that
posts throughout the NEA region had reported queries from
host governments about France,s policy in light of FM
Kouchner,s recent remarks about the possibility the
confrontation over Iran,s nuclear program could lead to war.
This had necessitated the drafting of &talking points8 to
be sent out worldwide to refocus attention on what Kouchner
said about the need to pursue diplomacy to the maximum extent
possible. Pouille (strictly protect) opined that Kouchner
had not for the first time allowed his tongue to get ahead of
his brain in terms of his public utterances. He has
struggled since to get the emphasis back on diplomatic
efforts to resolve the nuclear issue and to minimize the
importance of his reference to the possibility of war.

3. (C) We spoke September 20 to French MFA Iran desk
officer Arnaud Pescheux, who confirmed his understanding that
Kouchner was currently the most senior French official
expected to meet with the Iranians in New York, and then only
the foreign minister. He related that the Iranian mission in
New York had passed a formal written request to the French
mission for an Ahmadi Nejad/Sarkozy meeting. The GOF had
ignored the request in the same manner it ignored Ahmadi
Nejad,s congratulatory message to Sarkozy after his election
as president. Nonetheless, and as Kouchner has publicly
stated, Pescheux underscored that France continues to have a
normal relationship with Iran across the board, covering a
host of bilateral and regional issues (notably Lebanon).
This includes frequent visits to Paris by Iranian officials.
Tension over the nuclear issue has not changed this, even
though it has obviously complicated the bilateral dialogue
somewhat. In this respect, Pescheux stated that the French
embassy in Tehran has received numerous complaints about
recent public French statements despite the fact that few of
them have been replayed fully via the Iranian media to the
public at large. (Comment: This echoes what MFA
DAS-equivalent for Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf Franck Gellet and
others have told us per ref b. End comment)

4. (C) With respect to the new channel Velayati has tried
to open via Gellet and Presidency strategic affairs adviser
Francois Richier (also ref b), Pescheux said that it was not
closed off, just inactive until such time as France might
decide to make use of it. He repeated that the GOF is fully
aware that Tehran is trying to divide the P-5 1 by opening
such a channel. As for the idea, bruited by Pouille, that
French special envoy for Lebanon Jean-Claude Cousseran might
travel to Tehran with a larger mandate than the situation in
Lebanon, Pescheux said that was under discussion. Nothing
had been decided, either in terms of dispatching Cousseran on
such a mission or possible timing, although it was unlikely
to happen prior to the end of the ministerial portion of the
current UNGA. Pescheux reiterated the often expressed view
at the Quai that, unlike Syria, Iran is not presently
inclined to stir things up in Lebanon. He explained that for
Iran, the consequences of a renewed civil war that could
inter alia pit Sunnis against Shi,a would set Iranian
efforts to expand its regional influence back.

5. (C) Comment: As ref a demonstrates, Kouchner is not
only trying to recast his earlier remarks in a way that
downplays references to the possibility of war with Iran but
to underscore his readiness to engage with Iran including via
a trip to Tehran. We are not aware of any plans for Kouchner
to travel there, however, and he was very careful when he
responded to a reporter,s question on this that he kept it
limited to whether in principle he was prepared to go.
Despite the rhetoric and the furor surrounding Kouchner,s
remarks, the French have not closed any doors to continued
engagement. We think it unlikely, given the charged
atmosphere and the French determination to keep Ahmadi Nejad
at arms length, that President Sarkozy will meet formally
with him on the margins of UNGA, although we would not rule
out the possibility of an impromptu pull-aside should the two
find themselves at a group event organized by the UN.
Sarkozy was unwavering in a national television interview

PARIS 00003956 002 OF 002


September 21 that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear
weapons.

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm


Pekala

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