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Cablegate: Lebanon: Cabinet Revokes Controversial Decisions

VZCZCXRO5056
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0690 1361112
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151112Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1881
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS BEIRUT 000690

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: CABINET REVOKES CONTROVERSIAL DECISIONS

SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) On May 14, the Cabinet revoked its two contentious decisions
on transferring the head of airport security after discovering
Hizballah-installed monitoring cameras and declaring Hizballah's
fiber optics network illegal. The decisions, which sparked street
violence between Hizballah fighters and pro-March 14 supporters
since May 7, were rescinded after meetings with the Qatari-led Arab
League (AL) delegation. Meanwhile, political leaders agreed to meet
in Doha on May 16 to hold a national dialogue focused on government
formation and a new electoral law. While Hizballah arms are not
formally on the agenda, it appears they will be addressed. End
summary.

ARIDI ANNOUNCES CABINET HAS
REVOKED PREVIOUS DECISIONS
--------------------------

2. (U) Following a five-hour long cabinet meeting, the Siniora
government rescinded its May 5 decisions to remove the head of
airport security and to confront Hizballah's fiber optics network
following the discovery of HIzballah-installed monitoring cameras at
Beirut International Airport. Reading the cabinet statement,
Minister of Information Ghazi Aridi said, "In order to facilitate
the negotiations of the Arab League Ministerial delegation and to
preserve national unity and the security of citizens, the government
decided to accept the Lebanese Armed Forces' (LAF) request to
abolish these two cabinet decisions."

HIZBALLAH CELEBRATES DECISION
-----------------------------

3. (U) Celebratory shots by pro-opposition supporters were heard in
various areas, notably in the predominantly Shia areas of the
southern suburbs of Beirut. Hizballah supporters went to the
streets to celebrate the cabinet's announcement.

ARAB LEAGUE FM'S MET WITH
KEY POLITICAL LEADERS
---------------------

4. (U) Meanwhile, the Arab League (AL) ministerial delegation, which
arrived Beirut on May 14, met with Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime
Minister Fouad Siniora, LAF Commander Michel Suleiman, former
President Amine Gemayel, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement
Michel Aoun, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese Forces leader
Samir Geagea and Future Movement Party leader Saad Hariri.

5. (U) The AL also met with Hizballah Deputy Secretary General
Sheikh Naim Qassem on May 15. In a press conference held after the
meeting, Qassem stated that all pending issues can be solved through
dialogue that will be sponsored by the AL and will address the
national unity government and the electoral law. As for the
presidency, it has already been determined that General Sleiman will
be president. He added, "We want to reach a compromise whereby
there is no winner and no loser." Qassem noted, "We want to work
hand in hand in order to build Lebanon; neither U.S. intervention
nor external meddling is in the interest of Lebanon."

FIRST MEETING IN DOHA ON MAY 16
----------------------------

6. (SBU) Ghattas Khoury, advisor to MP Saad Hariri, told us the AL
reached an agreement to start negotiations, and the dialogue will
probably begin in Doha on May 16. He expects a public announcement
around 1530 local time on May 15. The agreement was that the
dialogue will focus on the two points: electoral law and government
formation. Khoury added that the issue of Hizballah's weapons will
be put on the agenda "in an acceptable way." A resigned Khoury said
but said it "was the best we can do" and "it will buy us time." The
expected attendees will be the leaders of the fourteen key political
factions, although it is expected that Hizballah SYG Hassan
Nasrallah will not personally attend.

SISON

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