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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08BEIRUT1454 2008-10-08 11:00:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

LEBANON: WITH DAS HALE, MP MICHEL MURR DESCRIBES

Tags:   PREL PGOV PTER PINR UNSC IS KPAL SY LE 
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VZCZCXRO1165
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #1454/01 2821100
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081100Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3233
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3008
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3219
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 001454 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA
ALSO FOR IO ACTING A/S HOOK, PDAS WARLICK
P FOR DRUSSELL AND RRANGASWAMY
USUN FOR KHALILZAD/WOLFF/SCHEDLBAUER
NSC FOR ABRAMS/RAMCHAND/YERGER/MCDERMOTT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/06/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PINR UNSC IS KPAL SY LE
SUBJECT: LEBANON: WITH DAS HALE, MP MICHEL MURR DESCRIBES
POLITICAL MANEUVERING

REF: BEIRUT 1391

Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

SUMMARY
--------



1. (C) In an October 7 meeting with visiting NEA DAS David
Hale, independent MP Michel Murr remarked he was unconcerned
about recent Syrian troop buildup at the northern
Lebanese-Syrian border, attributing the maneuver to a Syrian
desire to intimidate Salafists in northern Lebanon. Murr
revealed that Hizballah unsuccessfully attempted to reconcile
him with his former political ally, Free Patriotic Movement
Michel Aoun. Murr said that while he had reconciled with
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, he was unwilling to form
a joint parliamentary list with him. Confiding part of his
grand elections strategy, Murr revealed that majority leader
Saad Hariri would soon offer two seats on the
Beirut-Ashrafieh list to Armenian Tashnaq members. Murr
agreed to continue the National Dialogue process, despite his
doubts that it could address Hizballah's arms. He was
optimistic on the Israeli-Syrian negotiations, while
pessimistic regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
End summary.

UNCONCERNED BY SYRIAN
DEPLOYMENT AT BORDER


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





2. (C) Visiting NEA DAS David Hale and the Ambassador,
accompanied by EmbOffs, met with MP Michel Murr on October 7
at his home in Rabieh. Murr, whose son Elias is Defense
Minister, was unconcerned about the recent Syrian troop
buildup on the northern Lebanese-Syrian border. He thought
that Syria intended to intimidate what he called the Sunni
extremist Salafists, but would not actually cross into
Lebanon.



3. (C) He added that a Syrian military incursion into Lebanon
from the north would alarm Hizballah, because it anticipated
that Israel would respond with a similar incursion into
Lebanon from the south. Hale stressed that the U.S. would
not accept a Syrian intervention in Lebanon.

HIZBALLAH ATTEMPTS TO
RECONCILE MURR AND AOUN


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





4. (C) Remarking that the spring 2009 parliamentary elections
were occupying everyone's attention, Murr shared that
Hizballah MP Mohammed Raad recently visited him in an attempt
to reconcile Murr with his former ally, Free Patriotic
Movement (FPM) leader Michel Aoun. Murr said that Hizballah
had calculated that the March 8/FPM alliance would win 61 or
62 parliamentary seats out of 128 total seats in the
parliament. Confident that he controls the eight seats in
the Metn district, Murr speculated that Hizballah and Aoun
are hoping to get those seats, and therefore a majority in
parliament, through an alliance with Murr. Murr reportedly
responded that while he harbors no ill will against Aoun, he
preferred to "go it alone."

MURR APPEALS TO MARCH 14
TO ACT AS A SINGLE UNIT


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





5. (C) Murr said that after the October 1 visit of MP Setrida
Geagea, wife of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, he was
fully reconciled with Geagea who served prison time for
attempting to assassinate him. Geagea reportedly had
requested, through Setrida, to form a joint list with Murr
for the Metn district.



6. (C) Murr said he had inquired of Geagea whether he was
more interested in a March 14 victory or a single-seat gain
for the Lebanese Forces. While Geagea purportedly stated his
preference for a March 14 victory, Murr warned that March 14
would lose if each member acted out of self-interest.


BEIRUT 00001454 002 OF 002


HARIRI WILL SOON
MEET TASHNAQ


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





7. (C) Though Murr had detailed his grand elections strategy
to the Ambassador in September (reftel), he insisted that he
would not go public with his plan until February. Tweaking
his strategy slightly, Murr reported that it was progressing
along as he hoped. Having proposed to majority leader Saad
Hariri his plan to form a Christian independent bloc, allied
with both President Michel Sleiman and March 14 ("though," he
stressed, "not a part of March 14"), Murr was pleased to
report that Hariri agreed to allow for two seats in a Beirut
Christian district to be designated for Armenian Tashnaq
candidates. According to Murr, Hariri would meet Tashnaq
when he returned to Lebanon with an eye toward some political
agreement with it.



8. (C) Addressing another detail of his strategy, Murr said
Sleiman advised him to present a list of eight candidates,
rather than six, in the Metn district. (Note: Previously,
Murr intended to form a list of six candidates in a ploy to
separate Tashnaq from Aoun, a tactic obviated by Hariri's
willingness to meet Tashnaq. End note.)

"NATIONAL DIALOGUE CANNOT
DISARM HIZBALLAH"


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





9. (C) Murr relayed that he was still advising Sleiman to
delay the next session of the National Dialogue, currently
scheduled for November 5, until January or February. Murr
pointed out that the Dialogue was intended to address
Hizballah's arms, but that Aoun nd Hizballah were preventing
such a discussion. Murr speculated that if progress were
made in the Israeli-Syrian negotiations, then the National
Dialogue may have a better chance at disarming Hizballah.



10. (C) Hale responded that while the National Dialogue alone
cannot disarm Hizballah, it provided an important venue for
Lebanese political figures to talk about disarmament and he
encouraged Murr to continue with a process that could help
create a climate to pressure Hizballah. Murr agreed, but
expressed his pessimism for results.

HOPEFUL ABOUT ISRAELI-
SYRIAN NEGOTIATIONS


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





11. (C) Murr said he did not believe progress would be made
in the near future in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,
but that the Israeli-Syrian negotiations offered him more
hope. He said that Syria was interested in a U.S. role in
the negotiations. Murr added that the Palestinian issue was
important to Lebanese because the Palestinians possess
weapons in Lebanon. Hale expressed his optimism about the
Israeli-Palestinian track, noting the parties had made a lot
of progress on key issues. The U.S. remains focused on that,
he said.



12. (U) DAS Hale has cleared this cable.
SISON