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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08BEIRUT1149 2008-08-05 17:41:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

LEBANON: FINANCE MINISTER CHATAH SAYS MINISTERIAL

Tags:   PREL PGOV PTER PINR UNSC MARR MOPS SY LE 
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VZCZCXRO3967
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #1149/01 2181741
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051741Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2668
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2698
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2958
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 001149 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA, PM/FO
ALSO FOR IO ACTING A/S HOOK AND PDAS WARLICK
P FOR MUSTAFA AND RANGASWAMY
USUN FOR KHALILZAD/WOLFF/KUMAR/PHEE
NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER/GAVITO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PINR UNSC MARR MOPS SY LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: FINANCE MINISTER CHATAH SAYS MINISTERIAL
STATEMENT "MADE IN LEBANON"

REF: BEIRUT 1139

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires a.i. William Grant for reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d).

SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah, former advisor to PM
Siniora, views the 2008 ministerial statement as an
improvement over 2005, in that it elevates the status of the
state and puts limits on Hizballah. Remarkably, he notes,
the statement was drafted without foreign interference. The
biggest victory for the state is that its institutions are
now operating again. The discussion on Hizballah's arms
would now be taken up in the National Dialogue, where Chatah
stressed that the state's role in protecting Lebanon should
be emphasized as a counterbalance to Hizballah's calls for a
defense strategy that, by necessity, includes its arms.
According to Chatah, only by setting the conditions for
permanent peace can the state make Hizballah's weapons
obsolete. End summary.

NO FOREIGN INTERVENTION
IN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT


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





2. (C) Charge Grant, accompanied by A/DCM, met with Finance
Minister Mohamad Chatah and three of his aides at his office
on August 5. Chatah, previously PM Siniora's Senior Advisor
and a member of the committee charged with drafting the
government's policy statement to parliament (reftel),
revealed that, unlike many other agreements, this statement
was entirely Lebanese, with no outside intervention.



3. (C) Chatah deemed the statement "much better than 2005"
because it elevates the state's authority to a much higher
level, especially paragraph 7, which puts the state above
everything else. March 14 had tried to include this language
in paragraph 24 (which deals with Hizballah's arms), but had
compromised by adding language in a separate paragraph,
number 7, extending the state's authority over all of the
issues in the statement. The biggest victory for the state,
however, was that its institutions were now operating again.
In the end, he said the authority of the state derives from
its collective institutions.



4. (C) Unlike the 2005 document, the "resistance" was not
portrayed as an absolute right from some "eminent outside
source," Chatah continued. Instead, March 14 had inserted in
several places principles to limit Hizballah's weight, i.e.,
by putting the "resistance" on the same level as "Lebanon,
its people, and army" (implying they are all subject to the
same authority, that of the state), and stating they could
use "all legitimate and available means." "Legitimate," he
explained, must be defined by a higher authority. However,
the flip side, he warned, was that the state would be help
accountable, at least for the limited mandate of the
ministerial statement.



5. (C) Chatah called the statement "reasonable, given the
balance of power" in Lebanon. Acknowledging that it had
already attracted criticism from abroad, including some
(unspecified) European countries, he said March 14
nevertheless was "comfortable" with the end result.

NEXT STEP:
NATIONAL DIALOGUE


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





6. (C) Chatah confirmed that the issue of Hizballah's arms
and the country's defense strategy would next be addressed in
the National Dialogue, which President Sleiman would convene
soon after parliament gave its vote of confidence on the
ministerial statement. (Note: We expect parliament to take
up the issue beginning on August 8, with a vote expected by
August 11. We understand Sleiman will travel to Damascus on
August 13, meaning the Dialogue probably will begin after
August 13. End note.) Chatah said March 14 supported
Sleiman's trip to Damascus, adding that Sleiman would take

BEIRUT 00001149 002 OF 002


"all the issues in the ministerial statement with him, and
some that aren't." Expectations were high, he said, that
there would be progress on establishing diplomatic relations,
demarcating borders, Lebanese detainees in Syria, and other
key issues.



7. (C) Chatah stressed presenting the discussion in terms of
both the protection and defense of Lebanon. Hizballah would
stress the latter, as only its weapons offered a credible
defense against Israeli aggression. The state's role was to
provide a more general context, including complete
fulfillment of UNSCR 1701 and Lebanon's 1949 Armistice with
Israel, to convince the Lebanese that there was no need for
defense against Israel. "You can sell peace and security,"
he said, but it is more difficult to convince people there is
no need for Hizballah's weapons without these guarantees in
place. The state, with the help of the UN and the
international community, must create the conditions to
prevent an Israeli attack or spillover of regional conflicts
into Lebanon. Once we do that, he said, "Hizballah becomes a
source of weakness, not a source of strength."



8. (C) Chatah said it was not clear what the Arab League's
participation in the National Dialogue would be. Some in the
"former" opposition (March 8 and Aoun's Free Patriotic
Movement, now both represented in the government) wanted the
Arab League to be present only in the opening session, but
March 14 preferred greater involvement, as it would add an
Arab dimension to the discussions that Lebanese, as
inhabitants of a small country involved in the regional,
Arab-Israeli conflict, find reassuring. Furthermore, it had
not yet been determined whether the Arab League
representative would have a speaking role. (Note: We will
meet with Sleiman advisor Nazem Khoury, in charge of
organizing the dialogue, on August 7 to get more information.
End note.)

COMMENT


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





9. (C) Although we did discuss some issues related to his new
portfolio, our primary reason for the meeting was to sound
Chatah out on the ministerial statement. As PM Siniora's
former Senior Advisor, a member of the ministerial statement
drafting committee, and one of March 14's most strategic and
level-headed thinkers, Chatah is always an excellent source
for a reality check on events in Lebanon. His views on the
ministerial statement are in line with ours, namely, that the
state's role is enhanced vis-a-vis 2005 while Hizballah's is
somewhat diminished. However, as his comments on the
National Dialogue indicate, ultimately it is the reality on
the ground that will determine where the real power lies.
End comment.
GRANT