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Cablegate: French National Assembly Debate On Unifil

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Lucia A Keegan 09/11/2006 03:58:08 PM From DB/Inbox: Lucia A Keegan

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS PARIS 06056

SIPDIS
cxparis:
ACTION: POL
INFO: ODC AGR PAO AMB DAO ECON STRASBOU DCM FCS SCI
ORA UNESCO

DISSEMINATION: POLOUT
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: POL/MC:JROSENBLATT
DRAFTED: POL:RWALLER,JMUNIR
CLEARED: POL:BTURNER

VZCZCFRI358
OO RUEHXK RUEHC RUEHZL RUCNDT
DE RUEHFR #6056/01 2540812
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 110812Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1165
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0884

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 006056

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL LE SY IS FR
SUBJECT: FRENCH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE ON UNIFIL

REF: PARIS 5811

1. (U) Summary: On Sept. 7, the French National Assembly
debated France's participation in a reinforced UNIFIL. Prime
Minister Dominique de Villepin hailed the lifting of the
Israeli blocade of Lebanon, noted the despatch of a French
interministerial team to assess reconstruction efforts, and
called upon Iran to take responsibility for its nuclear
activities. He stressed that Iran's response to the
international community's offer was unsatisfactory, adding
that the impasse could only be solved through political
means. The PM underscored Pres. Chirac's call for a new
meeting of the Quartet, and (in a clear reference to USG
policy) said that war was not the proper response to
terrorism. Among the representatives of the four major
parties who responded afterwards, Francois Bayrou of the
centrist UDF argued that UNIFIL's mandate was too fuzzy, and
that the Government of Lebanon's reticence to forcibly disarm
Hizballah would produce a "UNIFIL II" just as ineffective as
its predecessor. Several speakers took the opportunity to
argue for holding the line against cuts in the defense
budget. End summary.

PM Villepin Calls upon Syria and Iran to Comply with UNSCRs
--------------------------------------------- --------------

2. (U) Embassy Poloffs and Pol FSN attended the September 7
debate in the French National Assembly over France's
participation in UNIFIL, in a special session called at the
behest of President Chirac. PM Dominique de Villepin opened
the proceedings by delivering the government's statement, in
which he described an arc of crisis stretching from Somalia
to Afghanistan, with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at its
heart. He underscored President Chirac's August 28 call for
a new Quartet meeting (see Paris 5811), noting that now more
than ever, the Israelis and Palestinians are incapable of
reaching a solution by themselves. Suggesting that "France
knows better than anyone" the importance of the cultural and
religious motivations that sustain the region's crises,
Villepin implicitly critized the USG for disregarding Pres.
Chirac's counsel on Iraq. As a result, Iraq has become "a
new home of crisis that destabilizes the region and nourishes
terrorism." He also took aim at the Global War on Terror,
saying that the use of military means was not the answer to
terrorism. (Note: Reuters reported these remarks under the
headline "Villepin disputes the American strategy for the
Near East.")

3. (U) Returning to his main theme, Villepin reviewed
France's response to the Lebanon crisis. He hailed the
lifting of the Israeli blockade of Lebanon (scheduled for
later that afternoon) and announced the despatch to Beirut of
an interministerial French team to evaluate reconstruction
efforts. He praised PM Siniora's "courage and spirit of
responsibility" for deploying the Lebanese Armed Forces to
the south of the country for the first time in forty years,
while noting that French-Israeli relations remain "solid and
confident" and that Paris and Tel Aviv maintain a
"constructive dialogue." Turning to Hizballah's backers, he
called upon Syria to fully comply with UNSCRs 1559, 1595 and
1701. With respect to Iran's nuclear ambitions, he called on
Iran to assume its responsibilities, reiterated that Iran's
response to the international community's offer was
unsatisfactory, and stressed that there is no solution other
than a political one to the current impasse. He concluded by
noting that it was the National Assembly's approval of the
government's military law (which set out the military budget
until 2008) that permitted France, and Europe, to play an
important role on the international stage. "This is an area
in which we have made real progress in these last few years:
Lebanon demonstrates it. But we still have further to go,"
Villepin said.

The Parties Chime In
--------------------

4. (U) Though largely pro forma (there was no vote at stake),
the ensuing debate allowed representatives of four major
parties to stake out their positions. Francois Bayrou of the
centrist UDF party, though largely supportive of the French
deployment, chided the government for accepting a UNIFIL
mandate encased in language that was too "vague, diplomatic
and fuzzy." Noting the huge risks to UNIFIL, Lebanon and
Israel if Hizballah did not disarm, Bayrou worried that the
Government of Lebanon's reticence to use force against
Hizballah would ultimately render the reinforced UNIFIL as
ineffective as its predecessor. In contrast to Bayrou, who
spoke at length about Israel's right to exist and lambasted
(with much applause) FM Douste-Blazy for referring to Iran as
a source of regional stability, Communist Party
representative Marie-George Buffet tried to lay the blame for
the recent Lebanon conflict at Israel's door. She criticized
UNSCR 1701 for lacking, among other things, any reference to
the plight of the Palestinians and advocated only using
political means to pursue the disarmament of Hizballah.

5. (U) Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) member Bernard
Accoyer joined Bayrou and Villepin in arguing for a strong
defense budget. He praised the government's handling of the
Lebanon crisis, and lauded President Chirac's role in
securing a ceasefire. Jean-Marc Ayrault, leader of the
Assembly's socialist bloc, rounded out the session by deeming
the government's proposal for an international conference on
the Near East "premature and unrealistic."

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm

STAPLETON

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