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Cablegate: Iran: Further Readout On Ghalibaf Visit to Japan

VZCZCXRO2629
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHLO #2789 3091315
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 041315Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0318
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

S E C R E T LONDON 002789

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/03/2018
TAGS: KNNP PGOV PREL UK JA IR
SUBJECT: IRAN: FURTHER READOUT ON GHALIBAF VISIT TO JAPAN

REF: A. TOKYO 02954
B. EMB LONDON 10/23 E-MAIL (GAYLE) TO NEA/IR

Classified By: Political Counselor Richard M. Mills, Jr for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S/NF) Summary: Tehran Mayor and possible 2009 Iranian Presidential candidate Mohammad-Baqer Ghalibaf while on a mid-October visit to Tokyo made comments suggesting he may support a marginally less confrontational approach to the nuclear issue, according to informal readout provided London Iran Watcher (Poloff) by the Japanese Embassy in London. End summary.

2. (S/NF) Armed with timely readout from Embassy Tokyo (ref a) on Ghalibaf's October 16-19 meetings, Poloff discussed the visit with London-based Embassy of Japan Political Officer Tamura Takahiro in a meeting October 23 and in later exchanges. Tamura provided the following additional details and informal Japanese impressions of Ghalibaf, relayed from a Japan MFA Iran expert and old friend of Tamura's, who escorted the Tehran mayor in Tokyo and Hiroshima.

A Plausible Candidate ---------------------

3. (S/NF) The GOJ reportedly expects Ahmedinejad to win Iran's June 2009 election, but is nevertheless looking at Ghalibaf as an "impressive" and viable candidate.

4. (S/NF) Ghalibaf reportedly displayed no apparent English knowledge while in Japan, but Tamura noted to Poloff that Ghalibaf is a licensed pilot and must have at least basic English. (Embassy London comment: Some of Poloff's Iranian expatriate contacts in UK who are familiar with Ghalibaf's circle say his English is more than rudimentary but far from fluent. End Comment).

5. (S/NF) While in Japan Ghalibaf was reportedly a refined, affable, highly polished guest and interlocutor, who deftly handled both tough substantive questions as well as the visit's small, closely watched logistical and cultural challenges.

Nuclear Issue: Rhetorical Tweaks? ---------------------------------

6. (S/NF) On nuclear issues, on which his senior GOJ hosts engaged fully (ref a), Ghalibaf reportedly at first went through his Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) boilerplate points dutifully, but with little apparent conviction, in Iranian Ambassador to Japan Araghchi's presence. He was on at least one point factually corrected in front of his hosts by Araghchi.

7. (S/NF) Ghalibaf, however, reportedly appeared to suggest (without spelling anything out) slight divergences, at least in tone, from IRI nuclear boilerplate, by adding (in the same meetings) that:

-- Iran has no intention of relinquishing its "civil" nuclear program, as the regime has paid too high a price to get to this point; -- Iran is capable of pursuing its nuclear goals "without confrontation" with the international community; and

-- Iran should make "further efforts" to earn the international community's trust.

Comment -------

8. (S/NF) Following his Japan visit Ghalibaf can truthfully say he defended Iran's current nuclear policies, but may also feel positioned to argue, to the right audience, that he tried to edge away from the regime's confrontational and rejectionist rhetoric. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX
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