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Cablegate: Media Reaction Report - Lebanon, Islam and the West

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Lucia A Keegan 08/29/2006 03:29:36 PM From DB/Inbox: Lucia A Keegan

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS PARIS 05769

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INFO: AMB ARS DCM POL

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 005769

SIPDIS


DEPT FOR INR/R/MR; IIP/RW; IIP/RNY; BBG/VOA; IIP/WEU;
AF/PA; EUR/WE /P/SP; D/C (MCCOO); EUR/PA; INR/P; INR/EUC;
PM; OSC ISA FOR ILN; NEA; WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC/WEUROPE; DOC FOR
ITA/EUR/FR AND PASS USTR/PA; USINCEUR FOR PAO; NATO/PA; MOSCOW/PA;
ROME/PA.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR FR

SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION REPORT - Lebanon, Islam and the West
Katrina: One Year Later
PARIS - Tuesday, August 29, 2006

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(A) SUBJECTS COVERED IN TODAY'S REPORT:

Lebanon, Islam and the West
Katrina: One Year Later

B) SUMMARY OF COVERAGE:

Reactions to Prime Minister Villepin's televised (TF-1) return to
the political scene yesterday evening received prominent front-page
play with comments that ranged from a cynical "Villepin Discovers
the High Cost of Living" (Liberation) to a more sympathetic
"Villepin Gives Priority to Lower Income Families" (Le Figaro),
"Villepin Supports Low-Income Workers" (La Tribune), and "Villepin
Increases Efforts to Improve Purchasing Power" (Les Echos). His
plans to boost modest salaries and help sustain consumer buying
elicit analysis and much editorial commentary.

The first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is today's cover and
editorial story in La Croix, which headlines: "New Orleans's Come
Back Too Slow." In her editorial Dominique Quinio emphasizes
"America's fragility twice in the span of a few years" referring to
9/11 and Katrina. A separate article proclaims "George Bush's Image
Is Tainted by the Fiasco." Images of President Bush viewing
Katrina's devastation from Air Force One were "a disastrous
communications operation that showed a distant, unconcerned
president watching the drama from on high." The "White House's
battle to regain prestige" is "in vain," according to Le Parisien,
which cites discouraging opinion poll results. In Liberation, the
report on Katrina, prominently featured on the cover page, is
entitled: "Bush Hopes to See the Wind Turn" while in his editorial
Gerard Dupuy contends that "the American machine, despite its
enormous capacity for digesting (events) is still having trouble
absorbing the residues from the hurricane." (See Part C) FR2's
journalist called New Orleans "a ghost town", with less than a third
of the population back in the city. This morning, Radio RTL and FR2
mentioned Bush's visit to the area, the 13th in one year, quoting
the American president's promise "to continue federal aid."

The situation in Lebanon is prominently analyzed in Le Figaro (See
Part C) which also interviews FM Douste-Blazy: "While UNIFIL is not
mandated to impose peace, it can defend itself if attacked... But
disarming Hezbollah is a Lebanese matter... In this regard, the
President has underscored the importance of a political solution...
Syria must accept to play the game in helping to disarm Hezbollah...
Syria must respect the arms embargo... Lebanon is at the heart of a
radicalization which is undermining the region and the world. We
cannot allow radical movements to pit one people against another...
In Gaza we want to stop the escalation of violence, obtain the
liberation of Corporal Shalit and get the negotiations between
Israel and the Palestinians back on track... Although Tehran's
latest answer is not satisfactory, it is also open to a dialogue.
France is equally open to reestablishing a dialogue with Iran."

La Croix's question of the day to Nicole Gnesotto, Director of the
European Institute for Security Studies, asks "whether the Europeans
scored in Lebanon." Gnesotto says: "It is certain that the EU has
gained an important responsibility, not only with regard to the
Middle East, but in reinforcing the UN... This signals a marked
reinforcement of multilateral diplomacy... This is the first time
the U.S. and Israel accept to see the UN play such an important role
in the region... But important questions remain as to the reservoir
of the West's capabilities to stabilize international crises. No
American will be present in Lebanon: they are over-stretched in Iraq
and Afghanistan..."

A number of reports, commentaries and op-eds are devoted to Islam
and the West. On its front page Le Figaro reports President Chirac's
"warning to his Ambassadors" and his "fear of a divorce between the
West and Islam" while La Croix headlines "Chirac Advertises His
Concerns About the Middle East." Les Echos announces on its cover a
two-page debate on "Terrorism and Counter Terrorism," adding that
"while anti-terrorism measures appear to have been effective in the
U.S. and Great Britain to dismantle plots, the West's defensive
approach is less effective abroad, whether it is in Iraq or
Lebanon." Senior political commentator Jacques-Hubert Rodier
contends that "the Shia movement and Nasrallah in particular, may
have gained momentum." (See Part C) Liberation carries an op-ed by
Great Britain's Home Office Secretary John Reid entitled "Hand in
Hand With the Muslims."
Le Monde's Corine Lesnes reports a Pew Research Center poll that
shows that French Muslims are the "most tolerant in Europe." "The
French model of integration, which was criticized by the American
press following the riots during the fall of 2005, has been
rehabilitated by one of the most prestigious polling institutions in
the US... The study shows that while British Muslims perceive a
'natural conflict between practicing Islam and the modern world,'
72% of the French Muslims polled do not hold this view... The study
also demonstrates that 91% of French Muslims have a favorable
opinion of Christians and 71% of Jews, compared with 32% of British
Muslims, 28% of Spanish Muslims and 38% of Germans."

Le Monde highlights that for the first time since the beginning of
the conflict in Darfur in 2003, a large part of the north and
central part of the country has become inaccessible for the
humanitarian organizations due to insecurity. The article goes on to
say that the "Anglo-American proposal to replace the AU [African
Union] mission with UN troops has provoked anger in Khartoum. This
ire was manifest on Sunday when George Bush's special envoy, Jendayi
Frazer, was blocked at the airport by demonstrators until the police
intervened."

Sophie de Menthon, President of Ethic (an association of mid-size
human-oriented companies), pens an op-ed in Le Figaro entitled: "Is
Economic Patriotism Viable Within Globalization?" De Menthon equates
economic patriotism to a "fairytale that no one believes in... but
to denounce it would be tantamount to being unpatriotic."

(C) SUPPORTING TEXT/BLOCK QUOTES:

Lebanon, Islam and the West

"Chirac Concerned Over Middle East"
Jean-Christophe Ploquin in Catholic La Croix (08/29): "In the
serious context of the Lebanese war, the French President did not
adopt a triumphant tone when addressing his Ambassadors... But the
prevailing feeling at the Elysee is that France was able to keep two
of its policies on course: a central role for the UN and a strong
relationship with the U.S. ... France battled to convince the U.S.
that deployment in Lebanon should be under the aegis of the UN, even
if Washington had hoped for an ad hoc coalition, possibly led by
NATO... In its longwinded search for a diplomatic solution, France
was able to preserve its good relations with the U.S. So much so
that a diplomat said yesterday, somewhat arrogantly, that 'when it
comes to Lebanon, it is the U.S. which aligned with France, not the
other way around.' ... During a presidential breakfast in Saint
Petersburg, Chirac and Bush had agreed that the U.S. and France had
to adopt a common stance (on Lebanon.) In the end, it is Lebanon
which in a way has allowed France to make Washington forget about
their divorce over Iraq."
"The Shiite Movement's Renewal"
Jacques Hubert Rodier in right-of-center Les Echos (08/29): "After
Iraq, the war in Lebanon has in turn made its contribution to the
renaissance of the Shiite movement... If on the ground, the war in
Lebanon has not determined a clear winner, at the political level
Hassan Nasrallah is proclaiming victory. And some tend to see in him
the new spokesman of the Pan Arabic world... His 'victory' has
traveled beyond Lebanon and galvanized support from Iraqi Shiites...
Although, as in the days of Nasser, unity within the Muslim world,
between Arabs and, in this instance, Iran, is more an illusion than
a reality, there is a certain community of interests between nations
and groups such as Hezbollah. Ahmedinajad has been using this in its
tug of war with the West... The situation remains explosive: not
only has Hezbollah not been disarmed, Iran not abandoned its nuclear
ambitions, Gaza and the West Bank sunk deeper into chaos, but the
U.S. is increasingly mired in Iraq. And Europe continues to have
difficulties imposing itself as a mediator in the region. These are
the weaknesses which Iran will be exploiting with the West to get
out of its isolation and position itself as a regional power."

"Terror Is Gaining"
Francois Eswald in right-of-center Les Echos (08/29): "Europe's
commitment in Lebanon, which marks the end of a certain Western
divide in the great battle against terrorism, is setting a new
order... Old Europe, the one which had defied the U.S. in its Iraqi
adventure, has entered the scene on the operational level, where the
point is not just to defend itself against terrorism, but to staunch
terrorism at the source. This is a new extension of an already
globalized war... Because, although the intervention in Lebanon has
been placed within the framework of 'maintaining peace' what we
really have here is a counter-terrorist operation..."

Katrina: One Year Later

"Aftermath"
Gerard Dupuy in left-of-center Liberation (08/29): "Katrina was like
a mirror in which the American people disliked seeing itself...
because it showed the less prosperous side of America... And
although the economy was able to rebound fairly quickly, in New
Orleans open wounds remains... And although Washington has earmarked
billions for New Orleans's reconstruction, where the funds are going
is eliciting harsh controversy... The American machine, despite its
enormous capacity for digesting (events) is still having trouble
absorbing the residues from the hurricane... The levee is like the
social divide that separates Americans."

"Revelations"
Dominique Quinio in Catholic La Croix (08/29): "Hurricane Katrina
left such a strong imprint on us ...because, twice in the span of a
few years Katrina, after 9/11, revealed America's fragility... One
year later, the wounds are still open... and despite the courage of
so many, the task remaining is huge... Experts do not want to say
whether the violence of Katrina was directly linked to climate
change. Yet the increased intensity of natural disasters urgently
calls for global mobilization to protect Mother Earth. The United
States, so sorely tried, has begun to understand this, although more
clearly at the bottom of the social scale and less so at the
summit." HOFMANN

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