|08BEIRUT1161||2008-08-07 17:55:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Beirut|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 001161
1. (C) Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) MP Ibrahim
Kanaan told Charge FPM is "satisfied" with the cabinet
statement. He said the kerfluffle over fellow FPM MP Gebran
Bassil's remarks about reviewing Paris III were taken out of
context and exploited. Kenaan said he is turning his
attention to the National Dialogue, where he will represent
2. (C) On the 2009 parliamentary elections, a confident
Kanaan said he expects FPM will win Christian districts and
claimed that Christian rivals like Amine Gemayale and Michel
Murr recognize this and are hinting at running consensus
slates of candidates. With this in mind, he downplayed the
notion of Christian districts being decisive in the election
because there may be consensus on Christian candidates and a
different composition to the current majority and minority
blocs. As a member of parliament's Administration and
Justice Committee, Kenaan is pressing ahead with electoral
law reform laws.
3. (C) Echoing a common theme of Aounists, Kenaan linked the
future of Lebanon's security with finding a resolution to the
issue of Palestinian refugees. In his opinion, the existence
of terrorism in the Palestinian camps gives credence to
Hizballah's arguments to keep its weapons.
4. (C) Finally, Kenaan confidently assessed the FPM as
professional and organized. He acknowledged that the party
has specific demands, but not "rigid alliances."
Furthermore, he claimed to have told Aoun that Aoun has
greater political freedom and can be more influential now
that he is not a candidate for the presidency. End summary.
FPM "SATISFIED" WITH CABINET STATEMENT
5. (C) Charge Grant and poloff met August 7 with Free
Patriotic Movement MP and advisor to Michel Aoun Ibrahim
Kanaan. Kanaan said FPM was "satisfied" with the cabinet
statement agreed on August 1 (reftel). Kenaan referenced as
positive inclusions full implementation of UNSCR 1701; full
authority of the state; and all of the Paris III conventions.
Kenaan explained that the reaction to the proposal by fellow
FPM MP Gebran Bassil in the drafting committee to reconsider
Paris III were taken out of context and exploited. In fact,
he continued, FPM agrees in principle with Paris III, but is
concerned about its implementation.
KENAAN TO REPRESENT
FPM IN NATIONAL DIALOGUE
6. (C) According to Kanaan, the next important issue is the
National Dialogue. Aoun has designtated him to represent the
FPM, and he is urging that President Sleiman begin the
Dialogue process very soon. Kanaan argued that Lebanese
citizens view the National Dialogue as a very important
internal issue, and need to be assured that it is
progressing. The first issue on the agenda should be
Hizballah's weapons, in his opinion. (Note: Press reports
indicate other representatives named to participate in the
National Dialogue include: Salim Sayegh (Kataeb); Akram
Shehayyeb or Sharif Fayad (Walid Jumblatt's Progressive
Socialist Party); Mohammed Fneish or Mohammad Raad
(Hizballah); and George Adwan (Lebanese Forces). End note.)
2009 ELECTIONS AND
7. (C) Kanaan expressed his belief that the purpose of the
current government is to ensure the parliamentary elections
occur in 2009. He said he does not believe that MPs are
BEIRUT 00001161 002 OF 003
saying anything new; rather they are using rhetoric to
position themselves for the elections.
8. (C) Contrary to what others have told us, Kanaan said he
does not believe the Christian districts will prove to be the
deciding factor in the elections. He hinted that Christians
such as Amine Gemayal from March 14 and independent Michel
Murr are sensing that the opposition Aoun group will win in
Christian districts. As a result, they are suggesting to the
Aoun group, Kanaan claimed, forming consensus candidate
lists. Kenaan claimed that FPM is invovled in such
discussions regarding certain districts such as Jbeil (where
President Sleiman is from) and Metn. Kanaan said FPM will
win 6 of the 8 seats in the Metn and that he has advised Aoun
not to fight "down to the last seat" because it is not in
FPM's best interest.
10. (C) As a member of parliament's Administration and
Justice Committee debating electoral law reform, Kenaan
reported the committee has been meeting two to three times
per week. However, the discussions have been difficult. He
said he wants to move forward with electoral reforms, such as
creating a campaign finance ceiling, and reforming bank
secrecy laws for campaign contributions, but Saad Hariri's
Future party has registered objections. Kenaan took credit
for influencing the Amal and Shia positions in the committee.
He continued that there do not appear to be splits along
party lines, yet the Future Movement and Hizballah are the
toughest positions to move.
11. (C) Kenaan expects the parliament will call an
extraordinary parliamentary session to work through the
backlog of legislation between August and October. (Note:
Parliament normally goes back into session the first Tuesday
after October 15. End note.)
12. (C) Kenaan said post-election would be a better time to
consider reevaluation of the Taif Accord and the electoral
districts spelled out in the Doha Agreement. He believes it
is necessary to review certain articles in the constitution
to remove ambiguities that he claims lead to chaos.
PALESTINIANS AND LEBANON'S SECURITY
13. (C) Questioned about FPM's rationale for raising the
issue of Palestinian refugees during the cabinet discussions,
Kenaan replied that solving the Palestinian issue is integral
to guaranteeing Lebanon's security. He continued that it is
not a secret that terrorism exists in the Palestinian refugee
camps. In Kenaan's view, this provides a basis for Hizballah
to continue to argue for the need to keep its weapons.
Kenaan said whether the argument is valid or not, it is
"factual" in his opinion. He also expressed the concern that
Lebanon cannot afford to have outside actors, such as Syria
or Saudi Arabia, use the Palestinian issu for their own
agendas every few years.
FPM HA DEMANDS, BUT
NOT "RIGID ALLIANCES"
14. (C) Kanaan confidently assessed FPM's preparations for
the 2009 elections as professional and organized. He
reiterated his belief that FPM played a positive role in the
formation of the cabinet statement. He added that FPM will
continue to raise the Palestinian issue and Lebanon-Syria
relations in the National Dialogue. Kenaan did not deny that
FPM has demands, but clarified that FPM has a nationalist
vision. The party, he said, would ally itself with anyone
that may be instrumental in achieving those goals. Kenaan
did not dismiss the possibility of a future alliance with
Saad Hariri, saying that "politics change."
15. (C) Furthermore, Kenaan said FPM leader Aoun has embraced
Kenaan's advice to maintain his political freedom. Kenaan
believes Aoun can have greater influence now that he is not a
candidate for the presidency.
BEIRUT 00001161 003 OF 003
16. (C) As usual, Kanaan was thoughtful and
non-confrontational when discussing the future relationship
between FPM and other parties. It is useful to hear the
ideas he is presenting to Aoun, even if Aoun's "inner circle"
advisors, such as his son-in-law and now Minister Gebran
Bassil, probably have more influence on Aoun. End comment.