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Cablegate: (S/Nf) Uk Considering Engagement with Hizballah Minister, Political Officials

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLO #2233 2461556
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 021556Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9628
INFO RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 0284
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 0320
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 3280
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0544
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0305
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T LONDON 002233

NOFORN
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ELA E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/02/2018 TAGS: PREL PTER PGOV SY LE IZ UK

SUBJECT: (S/NF) UK CONSIDERING ENGAGEMENT WITH HIZBALLAH MINISTER, POLITICAL OFFICIALS REF: A. NEA/ELA-EMBASSY LONDON EMAILS B. LONDON 1396 C. LONDON 1292 D. LONDON 1968

Classified By: PolMinCouns Gregory Berry, reasons 1.4 b, d

1. (S/NF) The UK is considering granting authorization to the British Embassy in Beirut to meet with Lebanese Minister of Labor Mohammad Fneish, a member of Hizballah, and other Hizballah party officials, FCO Levant Group Head Benjamin Saoul and Cabinet Office Desk Officer Brian Jones told us separately September 2 in response to ref A. (Note: HMG suspended contacts with Hizballah in 2005; it proscribed the military wing of Hizballah in July (ref B). End note.) The formal decision has not yet been made, Saoul said, and HMG will consult with the USG before the decision is taken. Both Saoul and Jones noted HMG's current policy gives it flexibility to condemn Hizballah terrorist activities while engaging with democratically-elected elements of the party. When pressed to explain why the UK would decide to end its suspension of contacts at this point in time, Saoul said HMG considers it a step to bolster the Lebanese government and the Doha Agreement.

2. (S/NF) Saoul and Jones gave differing opinions on the way ahead with proscribing Hizballah in its entirety. Saoul was adamant that HMG will not proscribe the whole party, arguing that in addition to limiting the UK's ability to engage with the party politically, the FCO does not believe a strong enough case can be made legally, especially in light of the UK High Court's May 7 decision to overturn HMG's proscription of the MEK (ref C), which set the bar to meet the requirements of the Terrorism Act of 2000 very high. Jones confided to us, however, that the Cabinet Office understands the FCO opposes the move, but that senior officials both inside the Cabinet Office and in other ministries feel the entire party should be proscribed and the issue is still alive.

3. (C/NF) On the possibility that Foreign Secretary David Miliband would travel to Damascus perhaps as early as October, following a visit by FCO Middle East and North Africa Director John Jenkins, Saoul said he doubted such a visit would take place absent real progress by the SARG on counter-terrorism and cooperation on Iraq. Jenkins will visit Damascus September 14, Saoul said, to pay a pastoral visit to the UK mission and will meet with FM Muallem while he is there. The SARG appears to be counting on a softening of U.S. policy following the U.S. presidential elections, Saoul said, and Jenkins will emphasize that, no matter who is elected, the Syrians shouldn't kid themselves that U.S. pressure on them will ease. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX
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