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Cablegate: Lebanon: Michel Aouns Says, "I Don't Want to Be

VZCZCXRO1036
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #3875/01 3551014
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211014Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6953
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 0657
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 003875

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/MARCHESE/HARDING, STATE FOR NEA/ELA,
NEA/FO: ATACHCO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: MICHEL AOUNS SAYS, "I DON'T WANT TO BE
MISUNDERSTOOD"

SUMMARY

1. (SBU) FPM leader and MP General Michel Aoun offered a
series of indirect answers, vague pronouncements and
prophesies of continuing and even-bigger challenges to the
current government, in the course of meeting with visiting
Senators Dodd and Kerry. Aoun blamed the Siniora regime for
marginalization of Christians and abuses of power. He
proposed no solutions, but advocated a cabinet that included
more representatives from the opposition. End summary.

2. (SBU) Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Michel Aoun
received CODEL Dodd/Kerry at his home in Beirut on December
18. He said that he wanted to clarify misconceptions about
him and his position, which are fostered by the press in the
U.S. and run counter to his and the FPM,s genuine affinity
for the United States. He said that, despite his "little
disagreements" with the Ambassador, he is still friendly to
the U.S. and considers that "shared values" between the two
countries are important. Aoun,s conversation was made up
mostly of platitudes and indirect replies to questions. He
focused not on substantive issues, but instead he tried to
explain his appeal to Christians as a non-corrupt nationalist
whose engagement with Hizballah was reassuring to people who
are otherwise worried about the cost of excluding Hizballah
from mainstream Lebanese politics.

ABUSE BY THE GOVERNMENT
RESULTS IN FAILURE
-----------------------

3. (SBU) Aoun attributed the current crisis in the GOL to
"abuses" by the government, beginning with the abuses of
President Lahoud. The Cabinet and the President were each
attempting to act independently of one another, with the
President ceasing to cooperate with the Cabinet, and the
Cabinet not respecting the constitution. For Aoun, the
government and particularly the Cabinet is a failure on all
counts: an economic failure in the absence of any reform; a
political failure in the absence of a unity government; and a
security failure marked by too many assassinations. Now is
time for new elections, to construct a government that will
rest on solid constitutional grounds.

THE GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM
-----------------------------

4. (SBU) Aoun explained why he believes that the government
is currently unconstitutional. He cited two conditions for
legitimacy: a proper number of ministers in the Cabinet, and
a proper distribution of ministries among the confessions.
When challenged by Senator Kerry on why the current set-up is
unconstitutional, Aoun changed the subject to the
marginalization of Christians, saying, "I always spoke
against that" for more than eighteen months. "Our consensual
democracy needs power sharing. The government has to abide
by democratic conditions." He scorned as another government
mistake the "internationalizing or Arabizing" of Lebanon,s
problems, saying that Lebanon,s political crisis &is not a
Syrian/Iranian problem."

THE FPM AND HIZBALLAH
WILL KEEP THIS UP
---------------------

5. (SBU) Hizballah and the Shia are rightfully a part of the
government, said Aoun. Rather than fighting, the solution
should be based on resolving the status of Hizballah,s
weapons. Aoun said he opposed anything that involves Iran in
the internal affairs of Lebanon, but then sidestepped an
effort to draw him out on his February 2006 pact with
Hizballah. He admitted to being a candidate for the
presidency. In his capacity as a voice of the opposition, he
added that if the crisis is not settled, "we will keep it
(the downtown demonstrations and sit-ins) like this until the
New Year" and then it will be "huge." He described the
sit-ins as an attempt not to bring down the government, but
to achieve democracy.

NO DIRECT ANSWERS
-----------------

6. (SBU) On the question of the Special Tribunal, Aoun said
that if Cabinet approval of the Tribunal reaches the
Parliament, then he will vote for it. He said the problem

BEIRUT 00003875 002 OF 002


with the Tribunal is in the text of the documents; they must
conform with the constitution. "Discussion of the documents
should take place between Cabinet ministers and Parliamentary
deputies." The proposed "blocking third" that the opposition
seeks in Cabinet composition is not a problem, Aoun said,
because the opposition would never use its ability to block
proposed legislation on domestic issues. It would consider
blocking only "important issues" like the Special Tribunal or
foreign policy questions.

7. (SBU) Aoun declined to identify whom he thought might
have killed former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, on the ground
that he (Aoun) is a "responsible" person. He suggested that
the crime could have been a hired job, the act of Muslim
extremists, or possibly Syria. He thought that the Lebanese
Armed Forces are doing well, although they may need more
training to act effectively in the south. He was
non-committal about the UNSCRs 1559 and 1701, saying that
they should be "respected" in the course of discussions in
the national dialogue.

AND ON SYRIA . . .
------------------

8. (SBU) The CODEL noted that they would be traveling to
Syria and asked Aoun what message the Senators should take to
President Bashar al-Asad. Aoun replied that the Syrian
President should be asked to "leave Lebanon alone," although
not at the expense of good and friendly relations between
Syria and Lebanon. Aoun deflected a question on how much
money the Syrians took out of Lebanon during the Syrian
occupation, recommending a forensic investigation of Syria,s
Lebanese collaborators, implicating unspecified members of
the present government.

9. (SBU) Codel Dodd has cleared this cable.
MURRAY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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