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Cablegate: Kuwait Media Reaction - Visit of Kuwait Fm to Tehran

VZCZCXRO1223
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHKU #0099/01 0251328
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 251328Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KUWAIT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0663
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHWSMRC/USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA// IMMEDIATE
RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 000099

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP, NEA/PA, NEA/AIA, NEA/PI, INR/NESA, R/MR, I/GNEA,
B/BXN, B/BRN, NEA/PPD, NEA/IPA
LONDON FOR NEA WATCHER
PARIS FOR NEA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO XF IR KU MEDIA REACTION

SUBJECT: KUWAIT MEDIA REACTION - VISIT OF KUWAIT FM TO TEHRAN

Ref: Kuwait 81

1. (SBU) Summary: Kuwaiti media coverage of Foreign Minister Shaykh
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sabah's January 16, 2008, press conference in Tehran
focused almost exclusively on issues discussed and, in all but two
English-language newspapers, did not contain any reference to the
FM's comment on Kuwaiti-Iranian "friendship" as reported by other
wire services; nor was any direct reference made to President Bush's
January 11-12 visit to Kuwait. Reports in all the Arabic-language
dailies were taken exclusively from the report of the Kuwait News
Agency (KUNA) datelined Tehran, January 16, which noted that the
issues discussed included the continental shelf, gas and water
transportation, and plans for a visit by the Amir to Iran. However,
the English-language dailies Kuwait Times and Arab Times ran Agence
France Presse and other wire reports that the Kuwait FM had called
Iran a "friend" only days after President Bush in Kuwait labeled
Iran a major sponsor of terror. To date, there has been only one
commentary on the FM's visit to Teheran. The intensity of coverage
of the FM's trip paled in comparison to the week-long multi-page
coverage of President Bush's visit to Kuwait, which was
overwhelmingly positive. On January 21, MFA U/S Al-Jarallah
clarified to CDA that the United States is Kuwait's "friend," and
that the press had likely distorted the remarks of the FM. End
summary.

2. (U) News reports in the Arabic-language local press on the
official two-day visit of the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Shaykh Dr.
Mohammed Al-Sabah, to Iran were taken exclusively from the Kuwait
News Agency's (KUNA) report of January 16, 2008. Most carried a
front-page story with a photo and one-eighth-page of text. Some ran
it as the lead story, but others did not. This minimal reporting
contrasted sharply with the volumes of coverage that President Bush
received before, during, and after his January 11-12 visit to
Kuwait.

3. (U) The KUNA report on the FM's visit and press conference quoted
him as saying, "Both sides discussed bilateral relations and files
that needed to be finalized, particularly the continental shelf, the
transportation of Iranian gas and water to Kuwait to pave way for
the visit of His Highness the Amir to Iran." The only comment by the
Kuwait FM about the nature of the Kuwaiti-Iranian relations was: "We
in the State of Kuwait are always supporting any dialogue leading to
the strengthening of security and stability in the region."

4. (U) Kuwait's two major English-language dailies, however, ran AFP
wire reports that highlighted a comment attributed to the FM that
Iran is Kuwait's "friend." For example, the Kuwait Times
front-page, but not lead, story was headlined "Kuwait: Iran Is Our
Friend." It noted that the FM affirmed Kuwaiti-Iranian ties
"despite U.S. worries." It quoted FM Shaykh Mohammed Al-Sabah as
saying, "My country knows who is our friend and who is our enemy and
Iran is our friend."

5. (U) To date, there has been only one editorial in the Kuwaiti
press that made comparisons between the FM's visit to Tehran and
President Bush's visit to Kuwait. In a commentary printed in the
January 17, 2008 issue of the Arabic-language Al-Nahar, Seham
Al-Fraih wrote positively of her participation in a January 12
roundtable with the President and Kuwaiti women activists. She
closed with a reference to the January 16 TIME Magazine article by
Scott MacLeod saying, "The meeting with the President was special
and different from previous ones. However, reading what was written
in TIME magazine by Scott McLeod is important too."

6. (SBU) Comment: The fact that none of the Arabic-language
newspapers printed other wire agencies' reports about the FM's
statements in Iran may reflect the desire of the GOK, through KUNA,
to de-emphasize the Foreign Minister's supposed reference to Iran as
a "friend." Also, on January 21, CDA brought to the attention of
Kuwait MFA U/S Khaled Al-Jarallah the potential negative fall-out
from the remarks attributed to the FM. Jarallah said emphatically
that the United States is Kuwait's "friend," that the FM is well
aware of sensitivities in dealing with Iran, and that it is likely
that his remarks were distorted by the press. He also cast doubt
that the FM uttered the quote in para 4, but clarified that, in
terms of delivering messages from the USG to Iran and vice versa,
the FM told the press that Kuwait serves as nobody's postman. End
comment.


********************************************* *

KUWAIT 00000099 002 OF 002


For more reporting from Embassy Kuwait, visit:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/kuwait/?cable s

Visit Kuwait's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/kuwait/
********************************************* *

MISENHEIMER

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