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Cablegate: Media Reaction; Chances of a Mercosur-Israel Fta; Imf And

VZCZCXYZ0025
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #2254/01 3300754
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 260754Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9765
INFO RHMFISS/CDR USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FL//SCJ2//
RULGPUA/USCOMSOLANT

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 002254

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INR/R/MR, I/GWHA, WHA, WHA/PDA, WHA/BSC,
WHA/EPSC
CDR USSOCOM FOR J-2 IAD/LAMA

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR PREL
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION; CHANCES OF A MERCOSUR-ISRAEL FTA; IMF AND
ARGENTINA; US PUBLIC DIPLOMACY; 11/23/07


1. SUMMARY STATEMENT

Today's major international stories cover an alleged initiative from
Lula and Cristina Kirchner for Mercosur to sign a trade deal with
Israel, in an attempt to keep Venezuelan Hugo Chavez at bay;
implications of IMF head Dominique Strauss' trip to Argentina to
attend Cristina Kirchner's presidential inauguration; and the work
carried out by the US Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Office all
over the world.

2. OPINION PIECES AND EDITORIALS

- "Gestures aimed at keeping Chavez at bay"

Lucas Colonna, political columnist of daily-of-record "La Nacion,"
writes (11/22) "Argentina wants Venezuela to become a Mercosur
member. This has been obvious under the Nestor Kirchner
administration and also under the future Cristina Kirchner
administration. Argentina also wants to make clear to Hugo Chavez
and the world that Caracas will not (as a Mercosur member) condition
the region's ties with the international community.

"The clearest signal in this regard might take place in the
up-coming days - Argentine diplomats are among the main promoters of
an initiative that is clearly aimed at setting limits on the
pro-Iran Venezuelan project, and therefore, on Chavez's political
ambitions.

"Argentina, supported by Brazil, wants Mercosur to sign a free trade
deal with Israel in the framework of the Mercosur summit to be held
in Montevideo by mid-December.

"If ongoing negotiations are successful, Cristina Kirchner would
lead the initiative... The document, whether with Venezuela in the
bloc or not, would be a resounding international wink as well as a
brake on the political interests of Chavez (whose ties with Israel
are severely damaged).

"The Argentine Government's ties with Caracas could suffer further
changes in the event Argentina settles its Paris Club debt.

"... If the Argentine government cancels its debt with the Paris
Club, the country will not only open its doors to investment but
also access international funding sources...

"Chavez is mainly a source of funds for both Kirchner and his wife.
If Argentina does not reach a deal to settle its Paris Club debt,
the Bolivarian leader may once again have to meet Argentina's
economic needs...

"One of the Argentine President-elect's obsessions is to settle the
country's Paris Club debt in order to change Argentina's perception
among the world's major economic hubs...

"... It would be the end of Chavez' economic favors in exchange for
political favors, like the time when the Argentine government had to
lend the Bolivarian leader a local stadium to host his anti-Bush
rallies...

"The new government's bet on foreign policy is focused on Brasilia
rather than Caracas, as demonstrated by Cristina Kirchner and most
of her Cabinet's recent visit to Brazil."

- "The IMF seeks to renew talks with our country"

Marcelo Bonelli, economic columnist of leading "Clarin," comments
(11/23) "Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the brand new IMF director, will
make a clear political gesture towards Argentina - yesterday, he
confirmed that he will travel to Buenos Aires to attend Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner's presidential inauguration.

"... His mission is unusual - never before has an IMF head attended
an Argentine President's inauguration. This political gesture is
unusually valuable because it will happen in the aftermath of the
stormy relationship between the IMF and Argentina. In this way,
Strauss-Khan wants to send a concrete sign - he is attempting to
reopen talks in the relationship between Buenos Aires and
Washington.

"Even though the Argentine Government is pleased with Strauss-Khan's
mission, Cristina Fernandez believes that this single gesture is not
enough to recompose ties with the IMF. The President-elect also
expects Strauss-Kahn to bring a proposal aimed at facilitating the
immediate resumption of (Argentina's) Paris Club negotiations.

"(Argentine Economy Minister) Martin Lousteau thinks this
international financial agreement is crucial: 'It could be an

important sign for industrialized countries.'

"... Lousteau is focused on putting together his team and also
making clear that there will be full economic continuity... He
considers that the successful economic policy implemented so far has
allowed Argentina to minimize the impact of the international
financial crisis."

- "Improving the US image in the world, a tough task"

Business-financial "BAE" (11/23) carries an opinion piece by Julio
Burdman, professor and head of International Relations at the
Belgrano University, who writes "The world has criticized, sometimes
in an exasperating way, US policies of recent years. This has become
a State issue for the USG. 'Hawks,' who decisively influenced George
W. Bush's first term in office, developed the idea that the 'anti-US
feeling' in foreign societies and 'civilizations,' was a cultural
problem that is out of the political leaders' control. Nonetheless,
this argument lost strength during the last two years and another
theory emerged that does not fully leave aside the anti-US feeling
theory... According to this theory, many citizens in the world who
criticize and reject the US are well-intended people who simply do
not agree with US foreign and security policies.

"This is the prevailing spirit at the Public Diplomacy and Public
Affairs Assistant Secretariat... Improving communication will be
crucial in 2008 and Karen Hughes' legacy will be the engine of a
national communication strategic plan, the first initiative of the
kind in history.

"Among other initiatives, there is the Rapid Response Unit, which
monitors all print and audiovisual mass media and Internet
publications and daily reports them to the US Department of State;
the Counterterrorist Communications Center; and the Office of
International Information Programs... Student and university
exchange programs and English teaching have remarkably expanded in
some regions as well as scientific and cultural cooperation with
countries in conflict... Sports are considered one of the
friendliest issues in international relations...

"Of all this there will be more - communication unification, design
of 'sensitive' messages targeting specific audiences, multiple
programs for student, scientific, sport and cultural exchange... and
direct work with TV news networks. And a novelty - they will seek an
approach between public and diplomatic officers and experienced
journalists. This means, less diplomats who know about
communication, and more journalists who know about diplomacy."

To see more Buenos Aires reporting, visit our
classified website at:
http://www.state.sqov.gov/p/wha/buenosaires

WAYNE

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