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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07PARIS4463
2007-11-09 17:51:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Paris
Cable title:  

ELYSEE SECRETARY GENERAL FLIES TO BEIRUT NOVEMBER 9

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  KDEM  FR  LE  SY 
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1083
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RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES  PRIORITY
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 0063
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 004463 

SIPDIS

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NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/GAVITO/YERGER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/09/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM FR LE SY
SUBJECT: ELYSEE SECRETARY GENERAL FLIES TO BEIRUT NOVEMBER 9

REF: BEIRUT 1752 AND PREVIOUS

PARIS 00004463 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Josiah Rosenblatt for reaso
ns 1.4. (b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: Claude Gueant, secretary general of the
French presidency, arrived in Beirut November 9 for meetings
with Lebanese focused on the presidential election -- with an
expected emphasis on securing the Maronite Patriarch,s
agreement to develop an acceptable list of names.
Speculation in advance of the trip included claims that the
recent trip to Damascus by Gueant and President Sarkozy,s
diplomatic adviser Levitte had created a new rift between the
MFA and the Elysee. The MFA sought to downplay such
speculation in a statement November 8 that confirmed
Gueant,s intention to visit Beirut. Basile Yared, Saad
Hariri,s representative in Paris, meanwhile (and in addition
to appealing for &international guarantees8 for Lebanon)
complained that France had misled Saad by not holding firm in
presenting one plan to draw up names to the Syrians and
instead accepting a plan Syrian President Asad had proposed.
He doubted the Patriarch would accept the French proposal and
argued Kouchner had agreed to the Elysee,s intervention to
preserve his role in a process he had started despite Elysee
disinterest. Gueant announced in Beirut that Kouchner would
follow him next week to continue French efforts to facilitate
an election. End summary



2. (C) The secretary general of the French Presidency,
Claude Gueant, traveled to Beirut November 9 to follow up the
visit he and French presidential diplomatic adviser
Jean-David Levitte made to Damascus November 4. (Comment:
We do not have any explanation as to why Levitte did not
accompany Gueant to Beirut. End comment) Gueant,s arrival
statement to reporters noted French President Sarkozy,s
inability, given his attachment to Lebanon and its people,
&to watch Lebanon plagued by crises.8 He underscored the
&great importance8 to France of the Lebanese presidential
election &being held on time and according to the
constitutional rules and respect for Lebanese sovereignty and
independence (without) foreign interference.8 Gueant
apparently did not reveal that the real focus of his visit,
as recent reporting from Embassy Beirut has indicated, would
be to persuade Maronite Patriarch Sfeir to accept an apparent
Syrian proposal that Sfeir develop a list of five acceptable
presidential candidates that Lebanese parliament speaker
Nabih Berri and March 14 leader Saad Hariri could narrow
down. Speculation on this trip and the previous one to
Damascus, as well as the rift they had reportedly engendered
between the MFA and the Elysee, prompted the MFA to confirm
Gueant,s imminent trip in its November 8 press briefing.
The response to a Lebanese journalist,s lengthy query read
as follows (per this embassy,s informal translation):


These trips occur as the result of close coordination between
the Elyse and the Quai d'Orsay. The secretary general of
the Elyse will moreover be accompanied to Beirut by the
adviser to the minister in charge of this file. (Note: We
assume this means Christophe Bigot, who handles NEA affairs
in Kouchner's cabinet. End note) As for the minister, he
has several times indicated that he is available to return to
Lebanon before the vote if that would be useful.



3. (C) Polmincouns and poloff called on Saad Hariri,s
representative in Paris, Basile Yared, to get his take on
Gueant,s upcoming trip, the apparent shift in French
approach, and the current situation in Lebanon. Yared
provided a rather different account of the development of the
Elysee's recent initiative with the Syrians. According to
Yared, the French (NFI as to who exactly) conferred with Saad
and Yared prior to French presidential diplomatic adviser
Levitte's and Guant's departure for Damascus and laid out
what Yared claimed was an entirely French proposal asking
March 14 to draw up a list of 5-7 names which would be vetted
with the Patriarch before it was submitted to Parliamentary
Speaker Nabih Berri. Saad and Yared listened and, despite
concerns that the French would meet with Asad and were
planning to go to Syria without intending to stick to
reiterating a tough warning of the consequences should no new
president be elected by November 24, they assented to the
approach. Yared said that he and Saad were shocked when,
upon returning to Paris, the French reported that Asad had
recast the proposal to the one described in Beirut's recent
reporting, i.e., a list of five drawn up solely by the

PARIS 00004463 002.2 OF 002


Patriarch to be vetted with Berri and Hariri. As Yared and
Saad understood it, the French had promised they would
present Asad a "take-it-or-leave-it" proposal and not
something he could modify. The most charitable
interpretation Yared could put on what actually came out was
that the French were unprepared for Asad's cordial welcome
and presentation of his own proposal. We did not challenge
Yared's version of events, including his significant denial
that Saad had anything to do with the proposal Guant and
Levitte took to Damascus.



4. (C) Before Yared went much further, he took a few
minutes to deliver what he clearly considered his key message
to the USG: Lebanon needs clear and concrete guarantees of
international, and specifically U.S., backing as it moves
into the most sensitive phase of the election process. These
guarantees were necessary, he explained, to fortify March
14,s resolve to press ahead, should the situation require,
with a simple majority vote to elect a president. Without
them, instability would likely ensue. Yared said the
guarantees needed to stress the importance of upholding
commitments under UNSCRs 1559 and 1701 as well as proceeding
with the establishment and functioning of the Special
Tribunal. Evoking familiar worst case scenarios, Yared was
confident Lebanon, in the wake of a failed election, faced a
new wave of bombings and Hizballah,s seizure of various
ministries and other key installations. We assured Yared we
would pass his message along to Washington.



5. (C) Returning to the anticipated French proposal to the
Patriarch on the preparation of a list of acceptable
candidates, Yared claimed Saad had not yet spoken to the
Patriarch following his return but had sent a relative named
Nadir to brief the Patriarch. Yared reported that the
Patriarch had neither accepted nor rejected the proposal but
indicated he wanted a process that would guarantee election
of a president by the November 24 deadline. We asked whether
that meant the Patriarch had softened his stance seeming to
reject election by a simple majority. Yared replied by
repeating the Patriarch's determination to see someone
elected before Emile Lahoud leaves office. As an aside,
Yared bluntly stated that Nassib Lahoud remained March 14's
preferred candidate for the presidency, although that did not
necessarily translate into belief that Nassib could be
elected.



6. (C) Yared agreed with the interpretation of these latest
French moves that we have been hearing that the Elysee has
moved from the relative disinterest it showed toward Lebanon
in July (when Kouchner started his efforts with the
intra-Lebanese conference at la Celle St.-Cloud) to
impatience with Kouchner's approach as the November 24
deadline approaches. He described in familiar terms internal
conflict between partisans of a hard line with Syria and
those advocating dialogue. Although most of the Elysee falls
into the latter category, the division is most acute at the
MFA. Yared was vague in terms of estimating where Kouchner
came out but said that Kouchner was determined to avoid being
elbowed out of the picture. Related to this, Yared contended
that the Elysee's engagement with Bashar al-Asad had
effectively raised the stakes inexorably for the French.
While it was premature to exclude Kouchner as a player in the
ongoing dialogue with Syria, Bashar was effectively now
talking to Sarkozy. The next logical step was for Sarkozy to
meet Bashar, although Yared did not predict that would
happen. He also understood that the impending trip to Beirut
would not include a stop in Damascus. (Comment: Gueant
asserted on his arrival in Beirut that Kouchner would follow
up with a visit next week to continue French efforts aimed at
facilitating a successful election. End comment)

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm


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