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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06BEIRUT3159 2006-09-29 16:00:00 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

LEBANON: DEFMIN ELIAS MURR SEEKS FURTHER U.S.

Tags:   LE PGOV PREL MASS 
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					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 003159 

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/MARCHESE/SINGH
STATE FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/FO:ATACHCO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/26/2016
TAGS: LE PGOV PREL MASS
SUBJECT: LEBANON: DEFMIN ELIAS MURR SEEKS FURTHER U.S.
ASSISTANCE FOR LEBANON


Classified By: Jeffrey D. Feltman, Ambassador. Reason: Section 1.4 (d
).

SUMMARY
-------



1. (S/NF) On September 26, the Ambassador and poloff met with
the Deputy Prime Minister/Defense Minister Elias Murr. Murr
reinforced his commitment to cooperation with the U.S. on
defense reform and modernization for the Lebanese Armed
Forces (LAF). He favored U.S. efforts over the European
Union efforts and was looking for U.S. support to further
Lebanon's reform and provide military equipment for the LAF.
On Hizballah, he denied the "rumors" that Hizballah was
transferring arms into Palestinian refugee camps for hiding.
He said that Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah's
rally speech last weekend was empty politically and did not
present anything new from the Hizballah leader to help widen
his base of support. END SUMMARY.

REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE IN DEFENSE REFORM


--------------------------





2. (S/NF) Defense Minister Murr indicated that when it comes
to defense reform and Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)
modernization, U.S. support and defense assistance is what he
"really" wants. Murr said that 80 percent of the LAF's
equipment comes from the U.S., from ammunition to spare parts
for armored vehicles. It is only natural to want to improve
the defense relationship with the U.S. to get the correct
training and spare parts for the equipment in the LAF
inventory. When the Ambassador inquired about the European
Union's contributions to the Lebanese Defense Ministry, Murr
responded that the Europeans are filled with "words, but no
money." He highlighted the French efforts that are
constrained by domestic political consideration for upcoming
elections and apparent French unwillingness to commit money
at this time. The Ambassador stressed that further U.S.
cooperation and support for the Lebanese military forces
requires a proper review process in determining future LAF
defense requirements. The Ambassador stated that having Murr
as a brake against bad decisions was good, but in the long
term, the solution for the LAF is reform. Murr indicated
that he is often the only who stands in the way of bad
decisions in defense procurement and that he would continue
doing so for the future. He indicated that he would take the
political heat for being the one who stands in the way.

NO TRANSFER OF HIZBALLAH ARMS TO PALESTINIAN CAMPS


--------------------------



--------------------------





3. (S/NF) When the Ambassador asked about press reports on
the possible smuggling of Hizballah armaments into the
Palestinian refugee camps to avoid forfeiture to the LAF,
Murr denied that this was happening. He said that such
reports were simply "rumors" that had no truth. Murr
indicated that vehicles were being checked by Lebanese
security forces and there is no indication that arms are
entering the refugee camps.

NOT IMPRESSED BY NASRALLAH'S SPEECH


--------------------------





4. (S) The Ambassador solicited Murr's opinion about
Nasrallah's speech. Murr replied that there was nothing
"new" in Nasrallah's political rhetoric and that the speech
was "empty" of political content. Murr indicated that he was
not impressed by and that it would not expand Nasrallah's
support beyond his base. The Ambassador asked about
Nasrallah's rhetoric in pursuing a "just and clean"
government in Lebanon. Murr indicated that Nasrallah was
trying to set himself up as the only arbiter to decide what
resulted in a "just and clean government." Murr's present
concern was that Nasrallah wants to change the whole makeup
of the sytem of government.

GUARDED RESPONSE TO BRAMMERTZ REPORT


--------------------------





5. (S) The Ambassador asked Murr about the Syrian linkage in
the latest Brammertz report on the investigation into the

BEIRUT 00003159 002 OF 002


assassination of Rafiq Hariri. Murr stated that he had read
the report and found it "interesting," but not surprising.
He was guarded in his remarks and did not venture a firm
opinion about the content of the report,nor did he comment
about any linkages with Syrian authorities. (Note: Murr --
who was one of the victims of the "14 other crimes" when he
was the target of a car bomb attack in July 2005 -- stated
that he would be interviewed by the Brammertz Commission in
the coming week, which might explain his reluctance to
comment. End Note.)

NO GAIN FOR LAHOUD IN EXPANDING CABINET


--------------------------





6. (S) The discussion ended on the topic of expanding the
cabinet from 24 to 30 positions, a proposal making the rounds
in the camp of Michel Aoun and pro-Syrian politicians.
President Lahoud's hope is to obtain a more dependable
pro-Syrian blocking minority in the cabinet. Ticking off the
complicated confessional arithmetic involved, Murr commented
that even these extra cabinet members would not guarantee a
pro-Syrian blocking minority. The pro-Syrians in the cabinet
now, Murr said, are the five Shia ministers. A0n expanded
"national unity" cabinet would comprise 3 Christians, 1 Shia,
1 Sunni and 1 Druze. The Druse would likely come from Walid
Jumblatt's bloc, and the Sunni from Saad Hariri's. That
means that only four of the new ministers would be
pro-Syrian, not enough when added to the Shia to make a
blocking minority. The Ambassador asked about Yacoub Sarraf,
the Greek Orthodox Minister of Environment who (alone among
the three ministers -- including Murr -- appointed by Emile
Lahoud who remains reliably pro-Syrian). "Yacoub now votes
with me," Murr said.



7. (S/NF) COMMENT: Overall, Defense Minister Murr was candid
in his response to the political and defense situation in the
country. He realized that the modernization of the LAF is a
long term project. While Murr pushed for the U.S. to
increase lethal assistance to the LAF during the meeting, his
intention is to improve the image of the LAF as capable to
defending Lebanon's borders and sovereignty. In light of
Hizballah's pretext for keeping its arms (i.e., a lack of
ability by the national government to defend Lebanese
territory), Murr suggested that USG defense assistance should
be aimed at not only improving the country's tattered border
security situation, but also re-establish the GOL's standing
with its own people.

FELTMAN