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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04BEIRUT4423 2004-10-12 08:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WANTS LARGE NATIONAL UNITY

Tags:   PREL PGOV LE SY 
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P 120844Z OCT 04
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4440
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L BEIRUT 004423 


DEPARTMENT FOR NEA FRONT OFFICE AND NEA/ELA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/11/2014
TAGS: PREL PGOV LE SY
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WANTS LARGE NATIONAL UNITY
GOVERNMENT

Classified By: Jeffrey Feltman, Ambassador, based on 1.5 (b) and (d).



1. (C) Lebanese Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, in a
10/11 meeting with the Ambassador, said that he wanted the
next cabinet to be a national unity government. Only by
getting sufficient representation from the Christian
opposition and Walid Jumblatt's bloc, he said, could Lebanon
face the challenges posed by UNSC 1559. PM Hariri, he
reported, met with him earlier that day, seeking Berri's
support for a narrow, technocratic government; Berri rebuffed
the PM, saying that broader political participation was
essential to the new cabinet's ability to deal with the
legislative elections law as well as other issues. Berri
said that, public comments from Walid Jumblatt and Christian
opposition figures notwithstanding, he believed it was
possible to lure their representatives to the cabinet. Asked
by the Ambassador about next steps, given widely divergent
views among leading Lebanese figures on the next cabinet,
Berri noted that Hariri would see President Lahoud again
during the evening of 10/11 in an attempt to hammer out a
cabinet deal. Berri would not predict what Lahoud and Hariri
might decide, or even whether they could agree, but he
emphasized that no deal on a cabinet is possible without
Berri's parliamentary blessing.



2. (C) On spring 2005 legislative elections, Berri said
that he cared less about the type of electoral districts to
be drawn -- large (favored by Hariri) or small (favored by
Maronite Patriarch Sfeir) -- as long as the same standard was
applied across the country. But when pressed, Berri
acknowledged that he preferred the larger governorate
("muhafeza") system as opposed to small "qada" districts.
The governorates, he said, are more consistent with the Taif
accord and, by inclusion of more than one sect in each
governorate, help move Lebanon away from a confessional
system of representation.



3. (C) Much of the hour-long meeting was devoted to Berri
decrying UNSC 1559 as interference in Lebanon's domestic
affairs and to Berri's attempt to convince the Ambassador
that French and U.S. views toward implementation of UNSC 1559
have already diverged (with the U.S. softening its line,
according to this theory). The Ambassador pushed back that
the U.S. wants to see UNSC 1559 fully implemented, with a
functioning cabinet addressing the needs of the Lebanese
people rather than answering to Damascus. After giving a
strong condemnation of Sunni extremism in Iraq and al-Qaida's
activities worldwide, Berri also lamented what he described
as U.S. neglect of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,
arguing that what he believed to be the absence of U.S.
strong leadership in pushing the Israelis and Palestinians
toward a two-state solution fanned the flames of extremism.



4. (C) Comment: In arguing for a national unity
government, Berri is more likely to be motivated by what is
best for Berri and his Amal movement than what is best for
Lebanon. Hariri's proposal for a narrow, technocratic
government would likely leave out Amal figures; a
technocratic government is also more likely to pursue
Hariri's reform agenda at the expense of Berri's spoils and
patronage instincts. In a larger, national unity government,
however, Berri will have Amal ministers who potentially can
be deal makers or deal breakers, giving the Shia leader more
influence on the direction of policy and debate with the
cabinet. As the Ambassador told Berri, whether the cabinet
is narrow and technocratic or larger and drawn from a broad
political spectrum is not of interest to the USG. What we
want to see is a cabinet that earns credibility among the
Lebanese people by starting to address their needs. This
would signal to us that Lebanon is beginning the process of
moving toward compliance with UNSC 1559.

FELTMAN