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Cablegate: Lebanon: Presidential Delegation Offers to Help

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DE RUEHLB #3092/01 2681607
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 251607Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5755
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0341
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 003092

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/MARCHESE/HARDING

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON IS LE PGOV PREL PTER SY
SUBJECT: LEBANON: PRESIDENTIAL DELEGATION OFFERS TO HELP

REFORMISTS IMPLEMENT A NEW VISION FOR LEBANON

SUMMARY
-------

1. The Presidential Delegation for Lebanon, headed by
Assistant Secretary Dina Habib Powell met with a broad
cross-section of Lebanese pro-reform elements and offered to
help them transform the country's economy to meet the
challenges of the 21st century, which in turn would create
conditions conducive to the development of strong, resilient
democratic institutions. Ironically, just before the
Delegation arrived in Beirut, Hizballah's reactionary leader
Hassan Nasrallah was railing against the Siniora government
at a large rally in south Beirut in which he threatened to
wage unremitting conflict if his organization's irrational
demands are not met. The existence of these two
diametrically opposed visions -- the reformists desire for a
democratic, peaceful, prosperous Lebanon versus Nasrallah's
vision of continuous conflict with its attendant
glorification of martyrdom -- places Lebanon at a critical
crossroads. If successful, the Presidential Delegation will
become a key enabler in the emergence of a dynamic democracy
and a model for the region. End summary.

2. The recently established Presidential Delegation for
Lebanon traveled to Beirut on September 22-23 and held
discussions with a wide range of representatives from
business, academia, non-government organizations, media,
international organizations, and the Lebanese government. In
addition, the Delegation visited numerous sites in south
Lebanon and Beirut to see first-hand the needs of the
country's numerous communities and directly interact with the
Lebanese people. The Delegation which is comprised of the
Assistant Secretary, Mr. John Chambers, President and CEO,
Cisco Systems, Mr. Yousif Ghafari, Chairman, Ghafari Inc.,
Mr. Ray Irani, Chairman, Occidental Petroleum Corporation,
Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, and Mr. Craig Barrett, Chairman,
Intel Corporation (did not travel to lebanon), announced the
launch of a nation-wide effort to demonstrate U.S. private
sector support for Lebanon's reconstruction and development.
(Others, including AID DAA Mark Ward, also participated.)
The heart of this effort will be the creation of the U.S. -
Lebanon Partnership, which is a long-term commitment by the
American people to assist the people of Lebanon through
active private-sector participation achieve a free, open,
prosperous society.

3. In a highly compressed schedule, the Delegation members
visited university campuses, infrastructure sites damaged in
the recent conflict (and being repaired with US funds), sites
with environmental clean-up requirements, and held
discussions with progressive-minded business and government
leaders. In all these meetings, the Delegation members urged
their Lebanese counterparts to persevere and set their goals
high. The Delegation explained that their mission had the
full support of the President and would seek to harness the
enormous generosity of the American people.

BUSINESS LEADERS COMMIT
-----------------------

4. In a meeting with the leaders of the Lebanese - American
Chamber of Commerce, the Delegation listened to proposals to
develop venture capital funds, subsidized loan programs for
businesses, research and development funds, and a fund to
support pro-bono and charitable organizations. Mr. Chambers,
however, urged the Lebanese business leaders to think even
larger, that is, not to simply aspire to repair the damaged
economy, but to take the opportunity to develop Lebanon into
a regional leader in education, medical services,
telecommunications, tourism, and finance. Mr. Chambers
emphasized his conviction that with its inherent advantages
in education, language and geography, Lebanon was
exceptionally well positioned to leap past its former
capabilities and, by using new technologies, create a 21st
century economy that would create large numbers of new,
high-paying jobs and become a magnet for the large Lebanese
Diaspora that is now spread across the globalized economy.
The business leaders expressed uncertainty that their system
could support such a radical transformation, but commited
themselves to the attempt.

NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS
----------------------------


BEIRUT 00003092 002 OF 002


5. The Delegation also held an extended forum with the ten
leading US-funded Non-government Organizations presently at
work in Lebanon. In discussing the situation and the
challenges facing the just-beginning reconstruction effort
with groups as diverse as World Vision, Catholic Near East
Welfare Association, World Rehabilitation Fund, and the
Cooperative Housing Foundation, the delegates learned that
Lebanon is both uniquely endowed with a strongly developed
sense of community, yet also faces enormous challenges in the
"zero-sum" mind set of confessional politics.

6. The Delegation members affirmed their intention to
utilize the experience and knowledge base of the NGO
community, especially those US organizations that are known
and respected by USG foreign assistance programs. For their
part, the NGOs expressed their keen interest in continuing to
work closely with the USG, despite recent campaigns by
Hizballah to demonize the US effort in Lebanon as hegemonic.
The organizations also stated their interest in the
Delegation's plans and pledged their cooperation in the
developing effort.

7. One comment by the representative from World Vision in
particular caught the Delegation's attention. He noted that
in his numerous interactions with moderate elements in
Lebanon's Shia community, a recurring urgent request was that
the Shia community be given a equitable voice in the
political and economic life of the country. This experienced
administrator strongly recommended to the delegates that they
bear this in mind when the proposed Partnership Fund begins
to prioritize and implement its programs.

PRO-REFORM PROGRAM STRONGLY CHALLENGED
BY HIZBALLAH'S OBSESSION WITH ISRAEL
--------------------------------------

8. As previously noted, the Delegation's work began at the
same time Hizballah's Nasrallah was excoriating the U.S. and
the pro-reform Siniora government. With stentorian language
that veered from threats "..we still have more than 20,000
missiles and, if necessary, will use them..." to cajoling his
followers to remain loyal to the "resistance," Nasrallah
presented a vision for Lebanon's future that was bleakly
committed to long-term conflict and a steady worsening of the
quality of life for this once vibrant nation.

9. As a result of these two competing visions -- one
committed to a free, open society and the other a captive to
fear and repression -- Lebanon's now faces a difficult
choice. Not difficult because both visions are attractive,
but difficult because the proponents of one vision use
threats and act in complete disregard for the welfare of the
nation.

10. The Presidential Delegation offered to help the Lebanese
people transform their society and appeared to strike a chord
across many confessional and economic lines. It appears from
the numerous discussions that a critical mass for reform and
democracy exists in Lebanon, but it will require considerable
resources and long-term commitments, such as the proposed
Partnership. (A message on the Delegation's meeting with
Prime Minister Siniora will be transmitted septel.)
FELTMAN

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