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06BEIRUT59 2006-01-09 11:15:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
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P 091115Z JAN 06
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L  BEIRUT 000059 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/09/2016

Classified By: Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman. Reason: Sections 1.4 (b
) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: On January 7, the Ambassador and emboff met
with Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh to express the USG's
mounting concern over the reported contents of a draft
agreement between the Siniora government and the
Hizballah-Amal bloc that would bring the Shi'a parties back
into the cabinet. Initial drafts of the agreement indicate
the GOL would give a priori approval to Hizballah actions
across the Blue Line, making the GOL complicit in any
Hizballah activity. If this were the case, the Ambassador
counseled, it would provoke a strong reaction from the United
States and the international community of a kind that the GOL
would find unhelpful. Salloukh stonewalled in response,
claiming he did not know the contents of the draft agreement
and that we should wait until we see the final agreement
before passing judgment on it. He reaffirmed Hizballah's
status as a legitimate "resistance," rather than a militia,
and came dangerously close to advocating a GOL policy of
kidnapping Israeli citizens to extort desired foreign policy
goals. End Summary.

2. (C) The Ambassador and emboff met with Lebanese Foreign
Minister Fawzi Salloukh at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on
January 7 in order to assure the minister of the USG's
continuing support for Lebanon's reform agenda, and to
express concern over the reported contents of a draft
agreement between the Siniora government and the
Hizballah-Amal bloc to bring the Shi'a parties back into the
Cabinet. The Ambassador also expressed his alarm that while
the initial pretext for the walkout was PM Siniora's supposed
disregard for consulting his ministers on an international
tribunal for the Hariri assassination suspects, the
negotiations for bringing the Shia parties back into
government now seemed to focus on 1559 and legitimizing
Hizballah's status as a "resistance organization." The
Ambassador cautioned that any written agreement that
legitimized Hizballah as a "resistance organization," exempt
from 1559 and the Ta'if Accords, and gave a priori approval
to Hizballah transgressions against Israel across the Blue
Line, risked provoking strong condemnation from the United
States and the international community, not to mention Israel

3. (C) Salloukh, rather disingenuously, responded that he
had not even seen the draft agreement and was unaware of its
contents. He added that any concerns over the agreement's
contents should be delayed until we actually see the draft
agreement itself. As for the point, quite publicly known,
that the focus of negotiations had now shifted from the
cabinet's consultative process with the prime minister to
Hizballah's status and compliance with UNSCR 1559, Salloukh
claimed that this was a natural extension of the
negotiations. He also claimed that the "most important part"
of 1559 had been implemented, and that any outstanding issues
(i.e., Hizballah's arms), were for internal dialogue. In
what was to become his primary tactic for the rest of the
meeting, Salloukh then shifted blame to Israel, blaming
Israeli airspace violations for the status of the
government's dialogue with Hizballah.

4. (C) The Ambassador countered that declaring compliance
with 1559 an "internal issue" only set the stage for future
cabinet crises. If Siniora ever discussed 1559 with the UN
or international community again, the Shi'a bloc could walk
out again, claiming that the prime minister had violated
their agreement that 1559 be solved by internal discussion
only. As for the recent increase of Israeli overflights, the
Ambassador reminded the Foreign Minister that these were
undoubtedly in response to unilateral attacks on Israeli
positions from Hizballah-controlled territory in the south
during November and December of last year. The Ambassador
again stressed the seriousness of the USG's concern over any
language making the GOL complicit in Hizballah military
actions, and suggested that Siniora could sidestep the issue
of validating the "resistance" in writing, simply by
referring back to the Ministerial Statement released last
summer when the present cabinet was formed.

5. (C) Salloukh's only response was to ask the Ambassador
not to worry about an "imaginary" document that hadn't even
been released yet, and to suggest that any resolution on
these issues would have to be part of a regional agreement
because they were the result of regional problems. Turning
again to Israel, Salloukh suggested that the USG focus its
efforts on the Palestinian issue, "the mother of all
problems." The Ambassador counseled Salloukh to be realistic
in this time of Israeli transition, and he noted that, with
the recent Hizballah attacks and the parachutist incident,
Lebanon had narrowly avoided violent Israeli reprisals.

6. (C) Salloukh then lamented that Hizballah had not been
able to capture the Israeli parachutist who landed in
southern Lebanon, because it would have "solved the prisoner
issue." Salloukh went on to explain, rather smugly, that if
Hizballah were to be able to get its hands on another Israeli
instead, it would certainly be able to arrange a prisoner
swap with Israeli, thus achieving one of Hizballah's
longstanding goals of freeing the two remaining Hizballah
fighters in Israeli custody. Outraged, the Ambassador
cautioned Sallaoukh that, as a Lebanese government official,
he should not advocate kidnapping people for ransom. The GOL
should be playing by international rules. He warned that
certain politicians in Lebanon would want to use this period
to show that they are tough on defense. He reminded Salloukh
that Shimon Peres, a moderate Israeli politician, was
responsible for the blistering assault on Qana, and that the
Lebanese should be very careful to avoid giving the Israelis
any pretext for an attack.

7. (C) Comment: Salloukh has, prior to this meeting, been
a more constructive interlocutor than we imagined when the
cabinet was formed. It was Salloukh, for example, who took
the initiative to put to rest the press stories that Siniora
had succumbed to "international dictats" in September, when
Siniora headed a delegation to New York and Washington. But
our earlier positive experiences aside, it is hard to imagine
how the content of this discussion could have been any worse.
Salloukh, like the other four Shia ministers who walked out
of the cabinet on 12/12, is clearly following Syrian and
Iranian messages to be intransigent. Were the GOL to adopt
as policies what Salloukh suggested in this meeting, the GOL
would easily be branded a state sponsor of terrorism. We
cannot believe that Salloukh actually believed his own
arguments, but, whatever he thinks privately, it is
outrageous that he made them. End comment.