Cablegate: Lebanon: Jumblatt On Possible New Unscr, National
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0586/01 1221217
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 011217Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1682
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2202
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2496
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 000586
NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER/GAVITO
USUN FOR WOLFF/PHEE/KUMAR
EO 12958 DECL: 04/30/2018
TAGS PGOV, PREL, KJUS, UNGA, SY, LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: JUMBLATT ON POSSIBLE NEW UNSCR, NATIONAL
DIALOGUE; RIZK ON UNIIIC EXTENSION
REF: A. BEIRUT 584
B. BEIRUT 573
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires a.i. Michele J. Sison for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) March 14 leader Walid Jumblatt questioned the utility of a new UN Security Council resolution on Lebanon if it does not address the border issue with Syria and if it does not contain strong language. He noted that the GOL had not yet agreed on whether an open session on the latest UNSCR 1559 report would be preferable to a closed session. Expressing his disappointment that Speaker Nabih Berri is refusing to meet majority leader Saad Hariri to discuss the National Dialogue, Jumblatt said he remains supportive of holding the Dialogue. He is hesitant about electing a president with a simple majority on May 13. Jumblatt was joined mid-meeting my Justice Minister Charles Rizk, who confirmed that the GOL is preparing to request the UN to extend UNIIIC’s mandate next week. Rizk added that he is extremely concerned about the safety of XXXXXXXXXXXX. End summary.
2. (C) The Charge, accompanied by PolOff, met with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt at his residence in Clemenceau on April 30. Justice Minister Charles Rizk, XXXXXXXXXXXX, Chief Justice Antoine Kheir, and Minister of Displaced Nehme Tohme joined the meeting.
HESITATION OVER A NEW UNSCR, OPEN DISCUSSION ON 1559
3. (C) Jumblatt questioned whether a new UN Security Council resolution focused on putting the Lebanon-Syria relationship on track (Ref A) would benefit Lebanon. He said that it would need to mention borders, an inclusion which might not have unanimous support. He expressed his fear that any new resolution would have “watered-down” language, and would quickly lose momentum, thereby becoming “obsolete, like past resolutions.” He also was noncommittal about whether the next UN session to discuss the latest UNSCR 1559 report should be open or closed, saying that the GOL had not yet agreed whether it was ready to discuss the border issue with Syria.
MARCH 14 MARCHING AHEAD
4. (C) “It is an injustice that Berri won’t see Saad,” complained Jumblatt. Noting that Sheikh Qabalan, head of the Higher Islamic Shia Council, had urged Berri in a telephone call to meet Saad, Jumblatt said even if Berri agrees, it won’t have the same impact. “They should have met yesterday,” he stated. Nevertheless, Jumblatt continued, you can’t say no to dialogue. Jumblatt said he believes a 13-7-10 cabinet division is “swallowable,” but that he suspects Berri won’t be able to deliver on this because Syria is waiting for the next U.S. administration and for parliamentary elections in Lebanon in hopes that it will be able to secure a more favorable division.
5. (C) Jumblatt stressed that a president must first be elected prior to discussing cabinet formation. Unsure about whether Lebanese Armed Forces Commander Michel Sleiman will accept an election by a simple majority, Jumblatt was silent when asked about March 14’s backup strategy. (Note: Saad’s plan is to go to parliament on May 13 and elect a president, with a simple majority if necessary, Ref B. March 14 members seem to be counting on General Sleiman’s acceptance, though he has not yet indicated his willingness. Jumblatt himself did not appear eager to pursue a simple majority election. End note.)
6. (C) Jumblatt reported that he will not see Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa when Moussa arrives in Beirut
SIPDIS May 1 because he is going to Jordan to see King Abdullah, and then hopes to meet Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu Gheit. Nonchalant about the value of Moussa’s visit, he said he was hopeful that the Qataris now appear to be siding with March
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14, “slowly but surely.” However, he wondered where French policy stands today.
HOW THE U.S. CAN HELP
7. (C) When asked how the USG could best support Lebanon at this juncture, Jumblatt said he was pleased to see the USG’s recent public statements on Syria’s efforts to build nuclear weapons. Jumblatt half-jokingly said that the U.S. should now send the USS Nimitz to intimidate Syria. Jumblatt also suggested U.S. assistance for Lebanese prisons (in response to recent prison riots in Roumieh). Rizk added that a roadmap would be helpful to lay out how the U.S. can best support the Ministry of Justice (in addition to the ongoing $7 million USAID judicial training program).
8. (C) Jumblatt noted that the GOL had yet to receive the $1 billion central bank deposit promised by the Saudis. Minister Tohme opined that the holdup is due to “Saudi culture,” and the best way to get the money would be for Prime Minister Foaud Siniora to send his advisor, Mohammed Chatah, to spend four or five days sitting in Riyadh “to move things along.”
CONTINUED IMPORTANCE OF UNIIIC
9. (C) Jumblatt said the Special Tribunal was “not enough” to intimidate Syria. Rizk chimed in to acknowledge that work on the Special Tribunal was “frightening to Syria until recently.” Both agreed that Syrian President Bashar Assad won’t care about the Tribunal in a year’s time. Rizk repeated his concerns that UNIIIC Commissioner Daniel Bellemare had stated to some that he “has no case.” Rizk said the U.S. can help by directing Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to ask the UN SYG to impress upon Bellemare the importance of his role as prosecutor for the Tribunal.
10. (C) Rizk pointed out that Bellemare should not be disassociating UNIIIC from the detention of the four generals suspected of involvement in Rafiq Hariri’s assassination because the blame then falls squarely on XXXXXXXXXXXX
11. (C) The GOL had not yet formally agreed to send a letter to the UNSC requesting a six-month extension of UNIIIC’s mandate, Rizk reported, because the cabinet lacked the necessary quorum at its April 29 meeting. He said he had no doubt that the letter would be approved by the GOL, adding that Siniora had only made one edit to the letter (changing “as soon as possible” to “soon”). Rizk expressed his optimism about the letter’s success at the UNSC because he changed the language to state that the GOL “welcomes” Bellemare as prosecutor, instead of making a request; it’s a letter you can’t say no to, Rizk affirmed.
GOL STILL PONDERING HOW TO REACT TO HIZBALLAH FIBER OPTIC NETWORK
12. (S) Meanwhile, in a separate conversation on Hizballah’s progress in establishing a fiber optic network, Siniora’s senior advisor Mohammed Chatah told Charge that the network was yet another example of Hizballah’s many infringements against the state. The network could thus not be separated from Hizballah’s military activities. A GOL public accusation against Hizballah would beg the same question as to why the GOL did not remove Hizballah’s tanks, and entailed military risks for the GOL. The UNSC could not remain neutral to reports of increasing illegitimate Hizballah activities, he noted, but the GOL would have to be the one to initiate the accusation. Chatah also said there was no clear strategy within the GOL on how to approach the problem, cited some disagreement between Defense Minister Murr and Telecom Minister Hamadeh.
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