WikiLeaks: Murr Says Sleiman Will Fight Hezbollah!

Another WikiLeaks cable revealed on Saturday that Defense Minister in the caretaker government in Lebanon Elias Murr has told the Americans that President Michel Sleiman was set to fight Hezbollah till the end.

SLEIMAN WILL FIGHT HEZBOLLAH

According to the cable, Murr told then US ambassador to Beirut Michele Sisson that the president was disappointed that the independent Christians were choosing not to run in the election, citing prominent industrialist Nemat Frem inparticular.

Sleiman reportedly conveyed to Murr his “frustration” with Hezbollah, and said he would fight Hezbollah to the end. Murr said he sensed a change in Sleiman's attitude toward Hezbollah from when he was LAF Commander and believes that Sleiman is feeling increasingly hindered by Hezbollah, hence the hardening of his attitude.

Murr posited that Sleiman had expected Hezbollah would not compete strongly against the President's former aide, Nazem Khoury, for a seat in Jbeil district. Sleiman realized now, however, that Hezbollah would not make such an agreement and would strongly support its political ally Michel Aoun against Christian candidates, including Khoury, the cable quoted him as saying. Sleiman saw that Hezbollah’s only “gift” to Sleiman was the presidency, Murr said.

Murr claimed that his colleague in the cabinet, Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, had been making frequent visits to Michel Aoun's residence, which is near Murr's. When he passed thisinformation on to Sleiman, Murr said, the president threatened Baroud with making him resign.

MURR FEARS HEZBOLLAH, FPM ATTACK

During the same meeting, which took place on the eve of Murr’s visit to Washinton, the Defense Minister discussed the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) many successes and credited US military assistance. He made a plea for an additional close-air support deliverable to demonstrate to so-called moderate Lebanese Christians (whose votes key swing districts are expected to determine the outcome of the June 7 parliamentary elections) and continued US support for the moderates in Lebanon.

Murr noted that he would be the first Christian political figure from the Middle East to go to Washington since Obama's election. Appreciative of the anticipated May shipment of military equipment from the US (Ref C) and the impending arrival of the Caravan, Murr made a plea for the announcement of an additional close-air support deliverable from the US during his trip.

Murr requested "some sort of aviation to sell to Christian voters during the elections." He clarified that he knew it was unreasonable to expect an actual deliverable before the June 7 parliamentary elections, but argued that an announcement of something to come from the US would be ideal in demonstrating continued US support for the moderates in Lebanon. He also suggested that a US push for UAE provision of 10 Hawks (from the UAE's inventory of 30 Hawks to be retired) would be welcome.

Murr feared Hezbollah and Free Patriotic Movement opposition Christian leader Michel Aoun would attack him in the headlines if he returned from the US "empty-handed."

LEBANON WILL NOT ACCEPT MIG-29S BEFORE 2040

According to the cable, dated April 4, 2006, Murr relayed that the Russian Defense Minister wants to visit Lebanon. He added that the Russians have been asking when the LAF officers would go to Russia for training on the MiG-29s it offered to the LAF in December (Ref D).

Murr said he had already begun hinting to the Russians that he did not want the fighter aircraft. He reiterated to the Ambassador that Lebanon would not be accepting the MiG-29s for a long time. "Not before 2040!" he stressed.

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