|08ISLAMABAD70||2008-01-05 07:06:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Islamabad|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 000070
1. (C) Summary: The Ambassador met January 4 with French
counterpart Regis de Belenet to discuss the recent visit to
Pakistan of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
Kouchner intended to meet with Asif Ali Zardari, husband of
the late Benazir Bhutto, but the GOP recommended against the
trip to interior Sindh because of security concerns.
Instead, Kouchner spoke to Zardari by phone. The latter said
his party would accept an election delay and pushed for a UN
investigation into his wife's assassination. Belenet
revealed that Kouchner may actually propose to the EU
an"International Independent Group of Eminent Persons" to
partially address Zardari's (and international) demands for
an independent investigation. Belenet also reported that
French intelligence pointed to al Qaeda leader Baitullah
Mehsud as being responsible for Bhutto's death, that the
European Commission would soon deploy long-term election
observers throughout Pakistan, and that Kouchner pushed
Musharraf to release lawyers Aitzaz Ahsan but did not raise
the issue of restoring the judiciary. End summary.
Kouchner On Message
2. (C) On January 4, French Ambassador Regis de Belenet
briefed the Ambassador on French Foreign Minister Bernard
Kouchner's hastily arranged December 31 - January 2 visit to
Pakistan. Belenet said that the visit was confirmed late
December 30 after French President Sarkozy called Pakistani
President Musharraf earlier that same day. Though Slovenia
currently holds the EU Presidency, France serves as "acting"
in countries like Pakistan where Slovenia does not have a
bilateral mission, so Belenet also represented the EU in
3. (C) Belenet told Ambassador that Kouchner came with four
key objectives: (1) to show French/European solidarity with
Pakistan "against the cruelty of terrorism;" (2) to ask for
"an unquestionable clarification" of the circumstances
surrounding the assassination of Pakistan People's Party
(PPP) leader Benazir Bhutto; (3) to encourage respect for
democracy and progress on sustainable development; and (4) to
push for general elections as soon as possible.
Stuck in Islamabad
4. (C) Kouchner had originally planned to travel to Naudero
(Larkana, Sindh) to pay his respects to the Bhutto family,
but the GOP advised against it for security reasons. The GOP
had to admit, Belenet added, that it "could not guarantee
Kouchner's safety," fearing that the informal, tribal
security of the region to which the Bhutto clan belongs would
clash with government security agencies. The GOP also wanted
to discourage other foreign dignitaries from attempting
travel to this part of Sindh, Belenet surmised.
5. (C) The French Consul General in Karachi instead was sent
to see Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, while Kouchner
offered condolences to Zardari via phone and laid a memorial
wreath at the Rawalpindi site of Bhutto's assassination.
Belenet said that Kouchner found Zardari to be "flexible,"
specifically on the possibility of a delayed election.
Though Zardari reportedly insisted to Kouchner that the party
wanted elections on January 8, Zardari also committed to
speak out against protests if a delay were announced.
Ideas for an Investigation
6. (C) Zardari took this opportunity with Kouchner to push
for a UN investigation into Bhutto's assassination. Belenet
added that Pakistani human rights leader Asma Jahangir
reiterated this point to Kouchner, asking for an "independent
investigation." Belenet said that Asma feared an
investigation by the U.K.'s Scotland Yard, which had been
rumored in the press that day, would be nothing more than a
"stamp of approval" of an already botched GOP investigation.
7. (C) In response to such Pakistani and international
ISLAMABAD 00000070 002 OF 002
pressure, Kouchner was toying with the idea of an
"International Independent Group of Eminent Persons" (IIGEP),
which would be proposed to the EU, Belenet said. Kouchner
had been part of such a group, assigned to looking into
recent killings in Sri Lanka, before becoming foreign
8. (C) Belenet then mentioned to the Ambassador that French
intelligence seemed to indicate that Bhutto's assassination
was the work of Pakistani al Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud.
He dismissed the conspiracy theories of government
involvement. According to Belenet, Musharraf told Kouchner
in their meeting that the GOP had difficulty bringing Mehsud
to justice because (1) he was hiding with his tribe and (2)
the GOP was worried about collateral damage if it actually
did invade the area. Musharraf said the government was
trying to work with mullahs and religious party leaders.
9. (C) Stuck in Islamabad, Kouchner instead met with PPP
Senators Abbasi, Baig and Khosa. He also met with leaders of
the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and Muttahida Quami
Movement (MQM), and of the religious party Jamiat
Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F). Belenet regretted that a leader from
opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was not
available in Islamabad.
10. (C) Belenet also reported that his Foreign Minister met
with Musharraf and Caretaker Prime Minister Soomro,
separately. According to Belenet, both advocated an election
delay (announced later that day) because of damage to
Election Commission offices and related election materials.
The start of the holy month of Moharram would force a delay
of at least a month, Musharraf reportedly added. Pakistan's
Army, which was to be deployed during this period, would stay
deployed through the new election date. Musharraf insisted
to Kouchner that these elections be "peaceful" in addition to
free, fair and transparent.
11. (C) Belenet mentioned to the Ambassador that, with the
election delay, the European Commission would likely deploy
about 50 long-term observers mid-next week.
12. (C) Responding to the Ambassador's specific questions,
Kouchner reportedly pushed Musharraf to release Supreme Court
Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan, but was quiet on the
issue of restoring the judiciary.