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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Price's November 9-10 Visit

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FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
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UNCLAS BEIRUT 001194

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TAGS: OREP PREL PGOV KDEM EAID UNSC PTER MARR LE
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR CODEL PRICE'S NOVEMBER 9-10 VISIT
TO LEBANON

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The U.S. Mission in Beirut welcomes your
November 9-10 visit. Your visit is the first by a U.S.
Congressional delegation to Lebanon since the June 7
parliamentary elections. Your meetings with President Michel
Sleiman, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, caretaker PM
Fouad Siniora, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, and members
of parliament (MPs) will reinforce the message that the U.S.
is committed to supporting Lebanon's state institutions and
looks forward to working with the next government of Lebanon.
USAID and its implementing partners are supporting projects
that strengthen state institutions, such as the judiciary,
and improve transparency in municipal governments. USAID is
also preparing to launch a parliamentary research center
program for the Lebanese parliament. With regard to economic
reform, you should encourage Lebanese parliamentarians to
pass a transparent budget that meets the needs of the
Lebanese people. Recent security incidents in south Lebanon
have raised questions regarding the full implementation of UN
Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701. Your visit to
Lebanon presents an opportunity not only to register U.S.
concern but also to highlight the need for the state to exert
control over all of Lebanon's territory. End Summary.
GOVERNMENT FORMATION PENDING
----------------------------

2. (SBU) Government formation efforts have been ongoing since
the June 7 parliamentary elections. Prime Minister-designate
Saad Hariri continues to engage with the leaders of various
parliamentary groups, especially opposition Christian leader
Michel Aoun, to come to a consensus about the distribution of
cabinet portfolios and the selection of ministers. The 1989
Taif Agreement created a delicately balanced confessional
system which dictates the distribution of power-sharing
between Christians and Muslims. Within that framework,
jockeying by the parliamentary blocs for representation in a
national-unity cabinet has contributed to a protracted
negotiation process that has also delayed the functioning of
parliament.

3. (SBU) Lebanon's 128-member parliament officially opened
its regular session on October 20, as mandated by the
Lebanese constitution. However, election of committees has
been delayed and no legislative work will begin until after
the cabinet is formed. Lebanese public opinion generally
supports the view that parliament committees should not be
formed until after the cabinet formation is complete because
the chairmanships and committee membership should reflect a
cabinet consensus. However, the public and the leaders
consistently express a desire for the government to be formed
soon.

INSTITUTION-BUILDING, REFORM
KEY U.S. OBJECTIVES
----------------------------

4. (SBU) Strengthening Lebanese state institutions has been
and continues to be a major U.S. objective. Progress towards
reaching this objective has been achieved by USAID and its
implementing partners. One such example, a project to
"Strengthen the Independence of the Judiciary and Citizen
Access to Justice in Lebanon," aims to develop the capacity
and infrastructure of the Judicial Training Institute (JTI),
to enhance judicial independence, and to provide a space for
training for judges. This program is implemented by the
National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and is expected to
run through 2010. A separate project, the Municipal
Governance Assistance Program, works with 750 of Lebanon's
900 municipalities to build their capacity and transparency.
This program, which began in 2004 and is expected to run
through 2011, is being implemented by the State University of
New York/Center for Legislative Development (SUNY/CLD).

5. (SBU) SUNY's Center for International Development is also
preparing to launch a program with the Lebanese parliament to
develop a parliamentary resource center. Prior to
implementing any activities, a memorandum of understanding
with the parliament is required. Speaker Berri is interested
in having the program begin as soon as possible and has
voiced support for its objectives.

6. (SBU) On the economic front, one of the first agenda items
of the new parliament will be to consider passage of the
GOL's 2010 budget. USAID is exploring with the finance
ministry establishing a program to provide technical
assistance to complement existing activities aimed at
improving budget transparency. Improved budget transparency
would constrain existing patronage mechanisms, slow the
growth of Lebanon's debt burden, and allow the central
government to be more accountable to its citizens. You
should encourage parliamentarians to support reforms that
encourage transparent budgeting to serve the interests of the

Lebanese people in support of these efforts.
IMPLEMENTATION OF UNSCR 1701
----------------------------

7. (SBU) Lebanese leaders express support for full
implementation of UNSCR 1701, which calls for the cessation
of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon and the disarming
of all militias south of the Litani River. However, the
Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the UN Interim Force in
Lebanon (UNIFIL) have recently faced several challenges to
their respective mandates. A rocket launch from the southern
town of Houla into northern Israel on October 27, preceded by
other security incidents over the summer, has raised the
specter that armed elements in the south are taking advantage
of the government impasse to stir tension. Statements issued
from the office of caretaker PM Siniora condemned each of the
incidents and reiterated Lebanon's continued commitment to
UNSCR 1701. Lebanese leaders have praised UNIFIL and its
cooperation with the LAF. We continue to highlight the
urgent need to bring all arms in Lebanon under the sole
authority of the state. We have also highlighted our ongoing
train and equip assistance program to strengthen the Lebanese
Armed Forces. We have underscored to the GOL that we believe
the surest way for Lebanon to set the stage for eventual
peace with its neighbors is to complete UNSCR 1701
implementation and demarcate its borders.

SISON

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