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08BEIRUT1308 2008-09-05 14:14:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

LEBANON: BERRI CALLS OUT ISRAEL AND QADHAFI ON

Tags:   PREL PGOV PTER PINR UNSC LE IS LY 
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1. (C) Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri blamed Israel and
the forces of terrorism for trying to destabilize Lebanon.
Berri made his remarks at a rally on August 31 marking the
30th anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr. In
the same speech, Berri said he holds Libyan leader Qadhafi
personally responsible for the disappearance of Amal's
founder and spiritual leader. On September 2, Shia Minister
Ibrahim Shamseddine told Pol/Econ Chief he planned to ask the
cabinet to file an official complaint in the case of Sadr's
disappearance with the International Court of Justice. End
summary.

BERRI BLAMES ISRAEL,
DEFENDS THE "RESISTANCE"


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





2. (SBU) Amal leader and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri
called Israel and terrorism the destabilizing forces in
Lebanon during an August 31 rally in the southern town of
Nabatieh marking the 30th anniversary of the disappearance of
Amal founder and Lebanese Shia spiritual leader Imam Musa
Sadr. Berri told rally-goers "Israeli threats against
Lebanon should be taken seriously;" but it is Israel, he
said, that is trying to destablize Lebanon and its economy.
In addition, Berri accused Israel of sowing internal strife
by creating sectarian rifts among Lebanon's multiconfessional
population after Israel's failure in the 2006
Hizballah-Israel war.



3. (SBU) Citing continued "Israeli aggression," Berri said
"the resistance is a necessity Lebanon cannot do without."
He went on to say that the resistance was created because of
the "state's failure to protect and defend the south,"
referencing the creation of the Amal movement in the
mid-1970s.

QADHAFI "PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE"
FOR DISAPPEARANCE OF SADR


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





4. (SBU) Imam Musa Sadr immigrated to Lebanon in the late
1950s from his native Iran to work for the rights of Shia in
Lebanon's southern cities. In 1974, he founded the "Movement
of the Deprived," which attracted thousands of followers.
The following year, he created Amal, the military wing of the
movement. Sadr, and two companions, disappeared following a
visit to Libya. The Libyan authorities claim that Sadr
departed Tripoli and was headed to Rome. Italian authorities
say Sadr never arrived. Luggage belonging to Sadr and his
companions was found in Tripoli, however no trace of them was
ever found. In 2004, Sadr's passport surfaced in Italy
during another criminal forgery trial.



5. (SBU) Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi has repeatedly
denied any involvement in the disappearance. However, on
August 27, an investigative judge affiiated with Nabih
Berri's Amal party issued an indictment against the Libyan
president in a Lebanes court. Berri, in his speech to the
Shia masses, said he held Qadhafi "personally responsible"
for Sadr's disappearance. Many Lebanese Shiites believe Sadr
was killed on Qadhafi's orders; others believe he is still
alive and being held in a Libyan jail. Qadhafi has not
visited Lebanon since Sadr's disappearance.

SHAMSEDDINE WANTS TO MOVE
THE CASE TO THE HAGUE


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





6. (C) Independent Shia Minister of Administrative Reform
Ibrahim Shamseddine told Pol/Econ Chief on September 2 he
would like the case moved out of Lebanese courts and to the
International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague.
Shamseddine claims Amal and Hizballah are using Sadr's
disappearance for their own purposes. He would prefer to

BEIRUT 00001308 002 OF 002


internationalize the matter by transferring it to the Hague
and remove it from Lebanon's domestic political situation.
Shamseddine asked if the U.S. would object if the case were
raised in the ICJ. Pol/Econ Chief responded that we would
look into the matter.

COMMENT


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





7. (C) Berri's comments about Israel come as no surprise. In
recent meetings, he has repeated the same concerns about
Israeli overflights, calling them "provocations." However,
we believe his speech was clearly designed to energize the
crowds. We have no clear answer as to why Amal decided to
wait thirty years before filing a legal claim in the Sadr
case. However, political and judicial observers do not
expect any real traction on the case in Lebanon. Post seeks
Department guidance on whether the U.S. would object to
Shamseddine's push to move the case to the ICJ.

SISON