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Cablegate: Algerian Reaction to Events in Lebanon

VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAS #1305 1961531
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151531Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1579
INFO RUEHXX/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ALGIERS 001305

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL IS LE AG
SUBJECT: ALGERIAN REACTION TO EVENTS IN LEBANON
UNCHARACTERISTICALLY STRONG


CRITICAL STATEMENT FROM MFA; REAFFIRMATION
OF BEIRUT SUMMIT PRINCIPLES BY BOUTEFLIKA
------------------------------------------

1. (U) In an apparent effort to get out in front of an
Algerian public furious over Israeli actions in Lebanon, the
GOA adopted an unusually high-profile posture the past few
days. The MFA issued a statement July 13 denouncing "the
flagrant aggressions" perpetrated by Israeli military forces
against Palestine and Lebanon, calling on the Quartet to
bring Israel "to withdraw its forces, lift its blockade
against the Palestinian people and Lebanese territory, and
liberate Palestinians and Arabs detained in Israeli jails."
The statement also stated that Algeria had never ceased to
support the establishment of a Palestinian state with
Jerusalem as its capital. The press reported July 15 that
that Algeria's UN Mission had called for the Security Council
to take action to halt Israel's attack on Lebanon. Earlier
in the week (July 12) while on an official visit to London,
President Bouteflika refrained from pointed criticisms in an
address before the Arab ambassadors to the United Kingdom.
He reaffirmed Algerian support for the peace plan adopted by
the Arab League at its 2002 summit in Beirut, support for the
roadmap, the return of Palestinian refugees, establishment of
a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and the
recovery of Israeli-occupied areas in Syria and Lebanon.

HEAVY GOA HAND IN SERMONS AT FRIDAY PRAYERS
--------------------------------------------

2. (U) The imams in Algerian mosques joined the chorus July
14, the likes of which has not occurred since April 2003 when
U.S. troops were entering Baghdad, drawing on GOA-issued
guidance for Friday sermons sharply critical of U.S. policy
in the region. The guidance, to which imams across the
country widely adhered, according to our contacts, condemned:
the American veto in the UNSC of the resolution proposed by
Qatar; Israel's "inhuman and cowardly" aggression; the
silence of the Arab nation "which fails to stand as one
single person"; and the Saudi position on Hizballah's actions
against Israel. Based on a copy of the text circulated to
all imams by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the key
portions of which were orally briefed to post by an imam
contact, imams were instructed to say, "But we are used to
the American double standard policy!" in conjunction with
references to the Qatari UNSC resolution. In reference to
Saudi Arabia's criticism of Hizballah actions, imams were to
declare, "Hizballah has a right to exist!" Imams were also
directed to note that Palestinians endured wars for ages and
hoped one day to see Jerusalem "as the capital of their
state. May Allah grant them victory!"

COMMENT: STRONG RHETORIC LIKELY TO CONTINUE UNTIL
IT IS IN BOUTEFLIKA'S INTEREST TO SOFTEN IT
--------------------------------------------- -----

3. (SBU) Post contacts noted that had classes been in
session, university students would "certainly have
demonstrated" against Israeli actions and the U.S. veto of
the Qatari proposal in the UNSC. Such demonstrations, had
they occurred in Algiers, would have tested the limits of an
existing ban on demonstrations in the capital under the
continuing state of emergency originally issued to combat
support for Islamist terrorists. Since university classes
are not in session, the most likely public expression of
anger will occur in what is expected to be a carefully
controlled rally organized in coming days by the parties of
the presidential coalition and the far-left Labor Party,
according to Embassy sources. There are no indications at
present to suggest that street demonstrations will be allowed
anywhere in the capital. Whatever plans the government is
formulating to vent popular anger, it is likely that the
government will not seek to soften official rhetoric in the
mosques or government media anytime soon. By having remained
thus far above the fray, President Bouteflika has
strategically positioned himself to temper Algerian reaction
at an appropriate time of his choosing.

ERDMAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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