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Cablegate: Lebanon: March 14 to Hold First Convention

VZCZCXRO6236
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0339/01 0651537
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051537Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1205
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 1105
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2022
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2286
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 000339

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA, PRM/FO, AND PM/FO
NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER
TREASURY FOR U/S LEVEY
DEPT PASS TO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PARM PINR PREF MASS SY IS LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: MARCH 14 TO HOLD FIRST CONVENTION

REF: BEIRUT 205

BEIRUT 00000339 001.2 OF 002


SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraph 12.

2. (U) The March 14 coalition, seeking to build on the
momentum gained during the February 14, 2008 third
commemoration of Rafiq Hariri's assassination, which rallied
larger than expected crowds, is planning its first ever
convention on March 14, 2008. The convention's purpose is to
rally local and international support for the March 14
movement and develop coalition-wide positions on major policy
issues. End summary.

3. (U) On February 29, representatives from March 14,s
one-month old General Secretariat (reftel) briefed Embassy
staff on plans for the first ever March 14 convention, to be
held at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure
Center (BIEL) March 14. The representatives included March
14 SYG Fares Suaid, Phalange regional offices director and
advisor to former President Amine Gemayel Michel Mecattaf,
convention coordinator Sami Nader, advisor to Defense
Minister Elias Murr and journalist Melhem Riachi, and Daniele
Gerges, journalist with l'Hebdo Magazine. The draft
presentation was emailed to NEA/ELA on February 29. March
14's official website is www.14March.org.

GOALS
-----

4. (U) The convention, which aims to develop and publicize
the March 14 coalition's program and vision and to
reinvigorate the March 14 movement, will bring together
approximately 1,000 participants under the slogan "Together,
We Achieve the Lebanese Dream." The organizers hope to
create a "Beirut Spring 2008" paralleling that of 2005, when
the Cedar Revolution reached its peak, resulting in an
overwhelming parliamentary victory for March 14. The
convention also will include a strong youth presence, in an
effort to promote a new generation of leaders. Finally, the
convention organizers intend to paint March 14 as a movement
that celebrates life rather than the "culture of death"
promoted by the Hizballah-led opposition.

5. (U) The organizers intend to use the convention to send
messages to non-Lebanese as well. First, the international
community, to show that people are still committed to the
Cedar Revolution principles of freedom, democracy,
sovereignty. Second, to the Arab world, to demonstrate that
Lebanon's democracy is of its own choosing, and not imposed
by the U.S. Third, to the Syrian people (vice regime), to
demonstrate March 14's goodwill and determination to build a
better relationship, and explain that the Special Tribunal is
about justice rather than politics. Finally, to the
Palestinians, to show that despite past conflicts with
individual March 14 groups (i.e., Phalange), March 14 is
committed to developing a Palestinian policy that addresses
both the issue of refugees in Lebanon and the broader
Palestinian question.

PROGRAM
-------

6. (U) The convention will consist of an opening session,
with a welcome address by MP Samir Franjieh, followed by a
documentary and exhibition on the history and achievements of
the Cedar Revolution, workshops aimed at establishing unified
March 14 positions on key issues, a closing "town hall"
session with March 14 leaders and the press, and a
"mega-concert" to conclude the convention.

7. (SBU) Each workshop, which the organizers envision as
"virtual institutions" to address state-building issues,
comprises three key elements: a subject matter expert, a
March representative, and a youth representative. The goal
is to develop a two-page "white paper" (policy paper) to
present to March 14 leaders. The workshops will continue
their work in the following two months. Workshop topics

BEIRUT 00000339 002.2 OF 002


include state-building, Lebanese-Syrian relations,
Lebanese-Palestinian relations, UN diplomacy and resolutions,
relations with the Arab world, Islamic-Christian dialogue,
the Taif Agreement, electoral reform, March 14's vision,
mission, and organization structure, and an action plan.

PARTICIPATION
-------------

8. (U) March 14 plans to invite Arab, U.S., and European
diplomats and parliamentarians, local and international
journalists, business and civil society representatives,
academics and think tank representatives, religious leaders,
young leaders from different sectors of society, as well as
supporters of the 2005 Cedar Revolution to the convention.
March 14 planned to focus especially on the participation of
UNIFIL countries, whose troops in south Lebanon made them
susceptible to being "held hostage" by the pro-Syrian
opposition.

ATTRACTING AOUN SUPPORTERS
--------------------------

10. (U) In a bid to discredit Free Patriotic Movement leader
Michel Aoun, Mecattaf told Pol/Econ Chief on February 26 that
March 14 entrusted various young leaders previously aligned
with Aoun to carry out some essential activities related to
the convention and to chair some of the workshops. He said
this effort was welcomed by Aoun's former supporters as well
as by March 14 leaders.

BUDGET
------

11. (SBU) Suaid told Pol/Econ Chief on February 27 that the
Hariri family was ready to pay for all the costs associated
with the convention. However, he also hoped to enlist the
support of various foundations created in the name of
assassinated March 14 victims and of Lebanese-American groups
in the U.S. (Note: March 14 often is accused as being a
Hariri/Sunni-dominated group, especially by opposition
Christians seeking to undermine its support. End note.)

ACTION REQUEST
--------------

12. (SBU) To maximize international participation in the
convention and demonstrate strong international support for
the March 14 majority, Post requests that Department demarche
key Arab and European (especially UNIFIL) capitals, as well
as the EU and UN, encouraging them to be represented at the
convention. Recognizing that time is short, post also would
welcome Department's suggestions for names of members of
Congress and prominent Lebanese-Americans in the business,
civil society, religious, academic and think tank communities
to whom March 14 should extend invitations to the Convention.
End action request.
SISON

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