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Cablegate: Lebanon: All the President's Men...And Woman

VZCZCXRO8781
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #1181/01 2251606
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121606Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2730
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 001181

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN...AND WOMAN

1. (SBU) Though President Sleiman is still in the process of
forming his staff, following is a list of individuals we believe
will be key advisors and members of his staff as well as persons
close to him who have no official role.

OFFICIAL ADVISORS
-----------------

2. (SBU) Nazem Khoury, Political Advisor:

Khoury is a close personal friend of President Sleiman and will
accompany him on his August 13-14 trip to Damascus. A former MP,
Khoury is a member of the Lebanese American University's board of
trustees. He also sits on the board of the World Alliance of Young
Men's Christian Association (YMCA) Geneva, and is the Chairman of
the League of YMCAs in the Middle East. Khoury sits on the board of
a British construction company "Stow." Stow is partially owned by
Minister of Economy and Trade Mohammed Safadi, a close friend of
Khoury's. Khoury was born on March 18, 1946. Khoury seems to
concentrate on domestic matters. He has greeted us in the waiting
room prior to our meetings with Sleiman at Baabda Palace, but never
participated in them.

3. (SBU) Ambassador Naji Abi Assi, Diplomatic and Political
Advisor:

In addition to being appointed as the Diplomatic and Political
Advisor to President Sleiman, Abi Assi is the Lebanese Ambassador to
the Vatican and is expected to maintain this role. Abi Assi also
will accompany Sleiman to Damascus. Abi Assi is a career diplomat
who also served in the Lebanese Permanent Mission to New York and
Geneva, and as Ambassador to Senegal and France. He also held
several positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including
Director of the International Organizations Department and Director
of the Consular and Political Affairs Department. Abi Assi
participated in Lebanese delegations at various international and
regional conferences. Abi Assi was born on April 16, 1947. We
believe Abi Assi will concentrate on foreign affairs.

4. (SBU) Elie Assaf, Head of the General Directorate of Economic
Affairs:

Assaf previously served in this capacity for seven months in 1996,
during late President Elie Hraoui's term. However, during former
President Emile Lahoud's term, Assaf was sidelined, and instead
managed educational and francophone issues. Assaf also headed the
Lebanese Customs in 1997. Assaf set up the Lebanese Ecole Nationale
d'Administration (ENA), the national school for administration
attended by public sector employees, and served as its president
from 2004 until 2008. Assaf also was Dean of Economic Affairs at
the Lebanese University in the 1980s and Dean of Information and
Documentation at the Lebanese University in the 1990s.

5. (SBU) Ambassador Bahjat Lahoud, Foreign Affairs Advisor:

Lahoud, no relation to former President Emile Lahoud, is a cousin of
President Sleiman and a retired diplomat. He comes from Amchit,
President Sleiman's hometown. Lahoud served as Ambassador to
Mexico, Charge d'Affaires in Gabon, Japan, and Switzerland, and
Consul General in Egypt and Rio de Janeiro. Lahoud was born on
January 10, 1943.

6. (SBU) Adib Abi Akl, Press Advisor:

Abi Akl is the editor-in-chief of the Central News Agency. Rafiq
Chelala, the former press advisor, remains at the Presidential
Palace, but has been sidelined in his responsibilities in favor of
Abi Akl.

7. (SBU) Brigadier General Abdulmuttaleb Hannaoui, Military
Advisor

General Hannaoui, another personal friend of Sleiman's, is not
expected to play a substantive role. In 2001, Hannoui was appointed
the office director for then-LAF commander Michel Sleiman, and
became a close aide and confidente of Sleiman. In 1996, he was
charged with preserving the security in the Baalbek area after
former Hizballah SYG Sheikh Subhi Tufayli called for a "revolution
of the hungry." He graduated from the military academy in 1975, and
participated in several military training courses in the U.S.,
notably at Fort Benning. He also headed the recruitment department
in the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Hannoui is married and has two
Amcit children.

8. (SBU) Shadi Karam, Financial Affairs Advisor:

Karam was the former Chairman and General Manager of Banque
Libanaise pour le Commerce (BLC). Sources close to Central Bank

BEIRUT 00001181 002 OF 002


(CBL) Governor Riad Salameh told Econstaff that Karam wrote the
economic part of President Sleiman's inaugural speech. Karam is
related to CBL Governor Salameh and close to Nazem Khoury, who was a
BLC board member.

9. (SBU) Ms. Rayyan Assaf, Legal Advisor:

The only female advisor, Assaf is a lawyer working on her Ph.D.
thesis. She is known to be poised and professional. Assaf holds a
law degree from the Saint Joseph University.

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF
--------------------

10. (SBU) General Salem Bou Daher, Director General of the
Presidency:

Bou Daher, a retired general, was appointed to this position by a
cabinet decree in 1998 at the request of former President Emile
Lahoud. We expect a new person to fill this position once the
cabinet embarks on appointing new director generals to the various
institutions. The Director General oversees the General
Secretariat, which handles administrative issues at Baabda Palace.

11. (SBU) Dr. Antoine Choucair, Secretary General, General
Secretariat:

Choucair most recently worked at the Investment Development
Authority of Lebanon, IDAL, a one-stop-shop for local and foreign
investors. Choucair held several positions in IDAL since 1997 and
still retains his current Director of the Export Plus Program and
Director of Administration and Finance positions at IDAL. Choucair
lectures in several institutions including ENA, where he has been
teaching Human Resources Development since 2006, the Institute of
Finance, and the Holy Spirit Kaslik University, where he has been
teaching strategic management since 2000. Choucair holds a
doctorate in management from Paris VIII University.

UNOFFICIAL ADVISORS
-------------------

12. (SBU) President Sleiman also has unofficial advisors including
former MP Mansour Ilbon and prominent industrialist Neemat Frem,
whose late father was a former minister. In the event that Sleiman
forms a parliamentary bloc, Ilbon and Frem probably would be
included as MP candidates.

13. (SBU) Mansour Ilbon:

Ilbon, a former MP and member of March 14, inherited his business,
his land, and his parliamentary seat from his father, Fouad Ghanem
Ilbon. He was elected to parliament in 1992 and served until he was
defeated in the 2005 parliamentary elections. Ilon maintains his
father's legacy through the Fouad Ilbon Social Foundation. Ilbon
was born in 1953.

14. (SBU) Neemat Frem:

A prominent industrialist, Frem is the President and CEO of INDEVCO,
an international manufacturing group headquartered in Lebanon and
solely owned by the Frem family. INDEVCO consists of 28
manufacturing plants located in Brazil, Egypt, England, the U.S.,
Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, as well as 20 commercial companies
throughout the Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) region. Frem is
also a board member of BADER, an organization that aims to promote
private initiative by inspiring the youth and providing support to
entrepreneurs through education, finance and networking. Frem is
the son of late former Minister of Industry George Frem.

GRANT

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