Cablegate: Mgle01: Ambassador's Meeting with Foreign

P 271509Z SEP 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L BEIRUT 003122


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2015

Classified By: Jeffrey Feltman, Ambassador. Reason: Sections 1.4 (b)
and (d).

1. (C) Summary: On September 27, Minister of Foreign
Affairs Fawzi Salloukh met with Ambassador and Poloff to
discuss the recent Lebanese meetings in the U.S. The
Minister was in good spirits. He expressed his overall
satisfaction with the reception he received in the U.S.,
including a side visit that took the Minister to Dearborn,
Michigan to meet with the Lebanese-American community there.
The Minister said he was pleased with the degree of
cooperation his government was enjoying with the USG and he
hoped to continue that cooperation. The Ambassador discussed
local commentary on replacements for President Lahoud,
Lebanese diplomatic appointments, and the arrival of the FBI
team in Lebanon. Pulling the Ambassador aside, the Minister
highlighted the importance of not isolating the Shia
community, and offered to serve as a messenger to Hizballah,
an offer the Ambassador politely refused. End Summary.

Clearing the air on assistance
and conditions

2. (C) The Ambassador thanked Minister Salloukh for his
help in dispelling rumors that the Core Group interest in was
linked to compliance with UNSCR 1559, or other conditions to
be imposed on Lebanon. The Minister launched into
expressions of gratitude for the meetings in New York on the
margins of the UNGA, and in Washington with USG officials and
members of congress. The Minister frequently repeated that
he was happy with the meetings, and with the outcome the
Washington discussions. He was particularly pleased with his
meeting with NEA A/S Welch, whom he described as "direct and
transparent." He said the local criticism that the meetings
had drawn in Lebanon was unwarranted. "Speaker Berri was
critical of the form, not the substance of the meetings."
Salloukh attributed the selected negative reaction in Beirut
to a question posed by a Lebanese journalist about the
conditionality to be imposed on assistance to Lebanon and on
the subsequent misquoting of the Secretary's response to the
question. Salloukh volunteered that he circulated the real
transcript of the interview to interested parties to correct
the record.

3. (C) After Salloukh's description of his efforts to
correct the atmosphere, the Ambassador thanked him for his
work. The unjustified verbal attacks on PM Siniora were of
particular concern to the USG, the Ambassador explained. The
Ambassador noted that he had visited Walid Jumblatt, who had
made negative comments about the New York meeting after
reading local press reports, and presented him with the
transcript of the interview as well. Jumblatt disavowed his
earlier criticisms. Salloukh added that he found that
Washington understood the Lebanese position. The GOL
understood that UNSCR 1559 was still on the table, but the
USG had understood that Lebanon would work to "solve one
problem after another."

Dearborn and Washington both successful

4. (C) Salloukh was proud that he was the first Lebanese
Minster for Foreign Affairs to visit the Lebanese-American
community in Dearborn, Michigan. The Minister said he was
greeted in Dearborn by Christian as well as Muslim community
leaders, including local bishops and sheikhs. The Minister
said he perceived the American-Lebanese community as
Americans proud of their Lebanese heritage. He said they
seem satisfied with the level of bilateral cooperation.
Salloukh explained that he had to interrupt his Michigan
visit to rush to Washington to be at PM Siniora's side during
his meetings there. Outside of the Department, Salloukh met
with Representatives Henry Hyde, Nick Rahall, Tom Lantos, and
Darrell Issa. These meetings were short, as the Minister had
to attend an IMF meeting. On his way out of the Capitol, the
Minister and PM Siniora bumped into Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld. Salloukh said Secretary Rumsfeld expressed support
for a "strong and stable Lebanon."

5. (C) The one unpleasant issue raised by the Minister was
the publication of a comment, made off the record by the
Prime Minister, regarding the potential need for President
Lahoud to step down. According to Salloukh, Siniora was
speaking to a reporter off-the record. That comment was
published and topped with the headline "Siniora says Lahoud
should resign." Despite the published comment, the Minister
said that relations between Lahoud and Siniora were good.
When asked by the Ambassador, the Minister also characterized
the relations between Siniora and Speaker Berri as good,
although with noticeably less conviction than had accompanied
his earlier statement.

USG has no Presidential Candidates

6. (C) On that topic, the Ambassador explained that the USG
had no favored candidate for President of the Republic in
Lebanon, if the presidency were to become vacant. The
decision to seek President Lahoud's early departure, or to
pick a replacement for President Lahoud, was not a matter to
be determined by the USG or any other actor in the
international community, the Ambassador affirmed. Salloukh
agreed and added that although the Ambassador was free to
discuss issues related to the presidency, or the possible
character of a new president, Lebanese would never accept the
"naming" of candidates by any foreign embassy.

FBI team is welcome

7. (C) The Ambassador briefed the Foreign Minister on the
arrival of the FBI technical team requested by PM Siniora.
The team will work at the direction and under the
responsibility of the Lebanese justice system. They will not
be independent actors. The Prime Minister had requested the
team and the Embassy had relayed that request directly to the
FBI. The Legatt from Jordan, with responsibilities for
Lebanon, was already on site and working with local
investigators. The Minister expressed his gratitude for USG

After Mehlis? -- We will see

8. (C) The Minister refused to speculate on what Lebanon
would do once the Mehlis report is issued and the UNIIIC
mandate under UNSCR 1595 came to an end. Salloukh said the
Ministry of Justice has the lead on those issues and he, as
Minister for Foreign Affairs, did not wish to intervene in
the matter. However, the Minister did say that Lebanese are
awaiting the report, and hope to have "the truth". The
Ambassador expressed the hope that local expectations for the
Mehlis report were not too high.

Diplomatic appointments will come

9. (C) The minister, who had been very comfortable during
the conversation, became visibly ill at ease when the
Ambassador asked him about possible diplomatic appointments.
Salloukh said, "We should do it." "I am preparing." The
Minister added that he had discussed the issue with the
President, Prime Minister and Speaker of the Parliament and
all agreed that appointments should be made. The Ambassador
reminded him that the Mission in New York was still without a
Chief of Mission and Salloukh added that even Riyadh had only
a Charge. Then, he made a subtle comment about the Lebanese
mission in Washington indicating he knew that changes were
needed in that Embassy. But the Minister, for all his
visible concern, fell well short of announcing a schedule for

Don't isolate the Shia

10. (C) As the meeting ended the Minister (accompanied by a
notetaker) pulled the Ambassador aside briefly. Salloukh
said that his meetings in Washington made it clear to him
that the USG did not aim to isolate the Lebanese Shia
community and that some Lebanese Shia were misguided in
believing that USG policy was "anti-Shia." Salloukh said
that he wanted to work with the Ambassador in making sure
that the Shia had an accurate understanding of USG foreign
policy. Even if the Shia were suspicious of some of the USG
"principles" and did not like UNSCR 1559, the Shia needed to
see that the USG would not work to isolate them as a
community. Salloukh also offered to serve as a conduit
between the Ambassador and Hizballah. The Ambassador
demurred, explaining that we do not pass messages to


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