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Cablegate: Lebanon: President Carter Welcomed Politely by Politicos,

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLB #1752/01 3471511
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121511Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3779
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS BEIRUT 001752

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO AND NEA/ELA
ALSO FOR IO A/S HOOK AND PDAS WARLICK
P FOR DRUSSELL, RRANGASWAMY
USUN FOR KHALILZAD/WOLFF/SCHEDLBAUER/GERMAIN
NSC FOR ABRAMS/RAMCHAND/YERGER/MCDERMOTT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL UNSC LE SY
SUBJECT: LEBANON: PRESIDENT CARTER WELCOMED POLITELY BY POLITICOS,
EXCEPT HIZBALLAH

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and an accompanying
delegation presented a proposal to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and
Interior Minister Ziad Baroud to send a team to observe the 2009
parliamentary elections. Baroud welcomed Carter's proposal, but
noted that it required cabinet approval. Across the political
spectrum, no parliamentary bloc, including Hizballah, objected to
Carter's proposal. However, only March 14 leader Samir Geagea
expressly supported the idea. Carter met with representatives of
all parliamentary blocs except Hizballah, which declined, saying
they would not meet with an official of a former or current U.S.
administration.

2. (U) During the four-day visit, December 9-13, Carter also heard
complaints from members of Berri's Amal movement and opposition
leader Michel Aoun about perceived U.S. bias towards Israel. Aoun
criticized U.S. policy further by blaming the U.S. for creating
political divisions in Lebanon. Carter finishes his visit with a
speech at American University in Beirut December 12, before
continuing his regional visit in Damascus on December 13. End
Summary.

ELECTION OBSERVATION
POLITELY WELCOMED
------------------

3. (U) Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter met, separately, with
President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Speaker of
Parliament Nabih Berri, Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, former
President Amine Gemayel, MPs Michel Aoun and Saad Hariri, head of
the Lebanese Forces (LF) Samir Geagea, and a number of
parliamentarians during his December 9-13 visit. Carter expressed
hope that the 2009 parliamentary elections would be transparent and
would take place on time.

4. (U) Carter formally presented The Carter Center's election
observation proposal for the 2009 elections during his meetings with
Baroud and Siniora December 11. Baroud welcomed Carter's suggestion
to monitor the elections. However, he explained that while article
20 of the new electoral law approved September 27 could permit
international observation, such a decision would require cabinet
approval.

5. (U) Reports of Carter's proposal garnered muted reaction from
several of the opposition parties, including Hizballah and Amal.
Hizballah MP Mohammad Raad told the press that Hizballah would
accept any decision of the cabinet on the matter, as did MPs of
Berri's Amal Movement who met with Carter. Pro-opposition Minister
of Agriculture Elie Skaff told Embassy staff he welcomed Carter's
initiative. However, he requested that Carter closely monitor the
influence of money in these elections, alleging that Saudi Arabia
was ready to allocate USD 1 billion to support March 14 candidates.
This figure, according to Skaff, surprised Carter who thought that
he was joking.

6. (SBU) March 14 leaders expressly welcomed Carter's proposal.
Majority-leader Saad Hariri said the coalition wanted election
monitors, in addition to having the elections occur on time. Former
president and Phalange Party leader Amine Geyamyel called Carter's
plan "encouraging," while Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea
said he "supported" the Carter Center as an observation team.

7. (SBU) Gemayel added Carter's visit to Lebanon complemented
efforts by the "friends of Lebanon" to help it get out of its recent
political crises. Elie Khoury, LF Foreign Relations officer told
Polstaff that Geagea and Carter also discussed the need to implement
National Dialogue resolutions adopted in 2006, notably the border
delineation between Syria and Lebanon and the disarmament of the
Palestinian factions outside the Palestinian refugee camps (i.e.,
PFLP-GC).

HIZBALLAH AND AMAL:
ALLIES, BUT NOT THE SAME
------------------------

8. (SBU) Hizballah representatives refused to meet with former
President Carter, in what many viewed as a surprising move.
Hizballah MP Raad told AFP, "the party does not meet any official
from the U.S. administration that supports Zionist terrorism." On
December 10, Ali Hamdan, senior advisor to Speaker Berri told

Embassy staff, that Hizballah's refusal should make the U.S. realize
the importance of Nabih Berri as a serious interlocutor. He noted
that although Berri is allied with Hizballah and most of his popular
support is from the south, Berri, nevertheless, is capable of
adopting positions different from Hizballah. Former minister and
Shia parliamentarian from Berri's parliamentary bloc Yassine Jaber
believed Hizballah's refusal was due to Carter's sponsorship of the
Camp David peace agreement.

"U.S. BIASED IN
FAVOR OF ISRAEL"
AND CREATING DIVISIONS
-----------------------

9. (SBU) Jaber called discussions between Carter and Berri's
parliamentary bloc "heated." Most of the MPs, he said, blamed
perceived U.S. bias towards Israel as the source of the Lebanese
people's sufferings. The MPs conveyed a clear message to former
President Carter that the Lebanese are not against the American
people, but rather against U.S. policy, said Jaber. He added that
the parliamentarians called on Carter to view the region in a more
just manner. However, disappointment reportedly filled the air when
Carter called or Lebanon to absorb some of the Palestinian refuges
who reside Lebanon.

10. (SBU) Carter also heard complaints from opposition-allied Michel
Aoun, pro-opposition Agriculture Minister Elie Skaff, and Secretary
General of the Armenian Tachnaq party Hovig Mekhitirian who blamed
U.S. policy for the divisions among the Lebanon's political leaders.
Skaff reported that his ally Aoun argued that the U.S., by inciting
one Lebanese group against the other, was the cause of political
unrest. Additionally, Aoun highlighted U.S. "double standards" in
the region and Lebanon, according to Skaff.

CARTER VISITS
UNIFIL IN SOUTH
---------------

11. (U) In addition to presenting his election observation proposal,
Carter visited the UNIFIL headquarters in South Lebanon on December
10 and expressed hope Israel would withdraw from Shebaa Farms and
southern village of Ghajar. On December 12, Carter is scheduled to
meet with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's parliamentary bloc, to see
Speaker Nabih Berri in South Lebanon, and to give a lecture at the
American University of Beirut before leaving for Damascus on
December 13.

SISON

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