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Cablegate: Beirut Media Reaction: July 14, 2008

O 141241Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2463
WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
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UNCLAS BEIRUT 001015


STATE FOR NEA/ELA - IRWIN, NEA/PPD, R, INR/R/MR
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TAGS: PREF PREL KMDR OPRC KPAO KISL KPAL LE
SUBJECT: Beirut Media Reaction: July 14, 2008

Atmospherics:
-------------

Media outlets agreed that the "Union for the Mediterranean" Summit
was in fact a milestone that put an end to Syrian international
isolation. It also changed Syrian-French relations, and
Syrian-Lebanese relations.

During the weekend, the Lebanese media highlighted the announcement
of the new Lebanese Government, noting that formulating it on the
eve of President Suleiman's visit to Paris bolstered his position
before the French and Syrian presidents. The press was engaged in
interpreting the political affiliation of each new minister, with
some noting that the new government is in fact a prototype of the
expected results of the 2009 parliamentary elections.

On Sunday and Monday, the Lebanese press highlighted in particular
President Suleiman's and President Asad's positions in Paris. The
press observed that the establishment of diplomatic relations
between Lebanon and Syria has been placed "on hot fire."
Journalists noted that, although President Suleiman seems extremely
careful to be neutral when dealing with all Lebanese factions
internally, he was very clear about wanting to normalize Lebanon's
relations with Syria.

The press also prominently highlighted a statement by President
Suleiman in which he said that the Shebaa Farms will be regained
first by diplomacy and implementation of international resolutions,
particularly UNSCR 1701. If diplomacy fails, the President added,
"then military operations will come."

Selected Headlines:
------------------

"The Prisoner Swap to Take Place Next Wednesday; Tens of Thousands
Will Accompany the Liberated Prisoners from Nakoura to Beirut; The
Mediterranean Summit: Normalization and Reconciliations"
pro-opposition Al-Akhbar (7/14)

"Suleiman Launches the Battle of Liberating Shebaa" independent
Al-Balad (7/14)

"Suleiman: Diplomacy First to Regain Shebaa and If it Fails,
Military Operations Will Come" pro-Suleiman Al-Bayraq (7/14)

"Suleiman: We Will Resort to Military Operations if Diplomacy Fails
To Liberate the Shebaa Farms" centrist Al-Anwar (7/14)

Block Quotes:
-------------

"Asad Allowed Sarkozy to Announce Establishment of Diplomatic
Relations between Syria and Lebanon To Avoid Looking As if He is
Complying with the French Wishes...," an editorial by Rosana
Bou-Monsef in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (7/14):

"...President Asad wanted President Sarkozy to announce
establishment of diplomatic relations between Syria and
Lebanon...because he did not want to appear as if he is complying
with international wishes in order to break Syria's international
isolation. ...It is well known, however, that exchanging embassies
between Syria and Lebanon is extremely important because Syria has
been refusing to take this step for over fifty years. ...The Syrian
President tried to belittle the importance of such a step...but
establishment of diplomatic relations is in fact a reflection of the
continuous international pressure on Syria to take the necessary
steps that prove that Syria respects the independence of
Lebanon..."

"Sarkozy Sought to Set a Date for Announcing Establishment of
Relations between Lebanon and Syria...," an editorial by Khalil
Fleyhan in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (7/14):

"Lebanese political sources noticed that President Sarkozy...tried
to set a date for the establishment of diplomatic relations between
Lebanon and Syria. ...President Asad announced that the
announcement of establishment of relations between Lebanon and Syria
should take place in Damascus and Beirut and not in Paris.
...President Suleiman disclosed that there should be legal and
administrative arrangements that need to be worked out before a date
is set..."

"The General's Shares Are Escalating...," an editorial by Imad
Marmal in Arab nationalist As-Safir (7/12):

"...There are those in the Christian arena who are describing the
Christian situation by noting that, what General Aoun lost as a
result of his 'Understanding' with Hizballah, he regained following
the Doha Agreement. ...After Doha, General Aoun had the chance to
prove that, similar to the way he backed Hizballah, ...Hizballah
also backed him when he needed it. Aoun was always accused of being
a follower of Hizballah Secretary General Nasrallah, but when the
government was being formed, Aoun was in the lead and all other
opposition members followed. ...Following the Doha Agreement and
the formulation of the government, Aoun proved to be the primary
leader of the Christians..."

"All of Lebanon's Government: When Concessions Change into Gains,"
an editorial by Nicolas Nassif in pro-opposition Al-Akhbar (7/12):

"...Looking at the new Lebanese Government we note the following:
1) Syria seemed to have returned to the Council of Ministers through
its allies, particularly those who failed during the 2005
parliamentary elections like Minister Talal Arslan and Minister Ali
Qanso as a result of their alliance with Syria; 2) Three of the
leaders in the majority, who had most of the ministerial portfolios
in the last cabinet, seemed to have gained only two portfolios each
in the new cabinet: Fouad Siniora, Walid Jumblatt, MP Saad Hariri.
Furthermore, Walid Jumblatt admitted that there are other Druze
leaders, and MP Hariri admitted that there are other Sunni leaders;
3) The Christians of March 14 owe their portfolios to General Aoun
and Hizballah, because they were able to get much more than MPs
Hariri and Jumblatt were originally willing to give as a result of
General Aoun's clever maneuvers during the formulation of the new
government ..."


Grant

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