SPEAKER BERRI SAYS HE IS WAITING FOR ISRAEL'S FINAL OFFER

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7/22/2006 14:09
06BEIRUT2440
Embassy Beirut
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NOFORN
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NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2016
TAGS: IS, LE, MOPS, PGOV, PTER, SY
SUBJECT: TFLE01: SPEAKER BERRI SAYS HE IS WAITING FOR
ISRAEL'S FINAL OFFER

Classified By: Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman. Reason: Section 1.4 (d).

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C/NF) In a July 22 meeting with the Ambassador and
econoff, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri recited the
devastation Israeli military operations have caused to his
native southern Lebanon. By contrast, Berri asserted that
Israel has not exacted much damage on Hizballah's military
wing, saying only eleven Hizballah fighters have been killed.
Berri also asked for USG assistance in securing safe passage
for 200 policemen and 300 civilians trapped in the Technical
School in Bint Jbeil. Berri was in no hurry to discuss a
cease-fire, saying he was waiting for Israel's bottom line
final offer. He received word that Israel had rejected the
UN proposal. Berri claimed he had not spoken to Hizballah
Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah since July 13, and he was

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not responsible for their cooperation. Musing about the war,
Berri believed that Hizballah will emerge victorious,
cease-fire or no cease-fire. If the fighting ends now, a
largely intact Hizballah wins; if Israeli invades, the
people, including Amal, will rally to the defense of Lebanon.
End summary.

FIRST, LET'S SPEAK
OF ISRAELI ATTACKS
------------------

2. (C/NF) On July 22, the Ambassador and econoff met with
Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and his foreign affairs
adviser Ali Hamdan in the Speaker's house in Ayn el-Tinneh.
Berri deflected political questions until he could work in
his customary critique of Israeli actions. He produced a
binder containing full-page, lurid, color pictures of
civilian casualties in the fighting with Israel. Berri
reported that there were 28 Israeli air raids on Khiam alone
today. Villages in southern Lebanon are being ""smashed"".
Next, Berri called in a grim-faced MP Ali Hassan Khalil to
confirm the devastation in the south. Berri noted that all
the construction work he did in southern Lebanon is now
destroyed.

3. (C/NF) Berri said repeatedly that Israel is not causing
any significant damage to Hizballah's military capabilities.
He dismissed the Israeli claims that 100 Hizballah fighters
have been killed thus far in the Israeli campaign. According
to Amal's information, only eleven Hizballah fighters have
been killed. Berri accused Israel of exaggerating the death
toll by counting a Hizballah house destroyed as a dead
Hizballah fighter. By this logic, Berri grinned ruefully,
there must be 600 Amal members dead. You know, Berri
explained, Israel is attacking a lot of Amal areas.

4. (C/NF) Berri then asked for USG assistance in the plight
of some 200 policemen and 300 civilians trapped inside the
Technical School of Bint Jbeil. He said that the UN is ready
escort them out to Berri's hometown of Tibnin, but they need
Israeli clearance. He asked that the USG obtain Israeli
clearance for the technical school evacuation.

WAITING FOR
ISRAEL'S FINAL OFFER
--------------------

5. (C/NF) Following Berri's presentation on the impact of
the Israeli military operation, he was curiously noncommittal
about a cease-fire. He did not seem to be in a hurry to end
the fighting. Berri simply said that, following his meetings
with the UN peace team, he was waiting for Israel's final
offer. He cannot engage the issue until he knows what Israel
can and cannot accept. In any event, Berri heard from PM
adviser Mohammad Chattah that Israel rejected Terje
Roed-Larsen's proposal out of hand and said that it would win
the war. Israel wanted a 20-40 km buffer zone, LAF
deployment to the south, and no discussion of Lebanese
prisoners in Israel, according to Berri's sources. Berri
then mentioned that shelling had come close to the UN team's
vehicle in Gaza as if to imply Israel wanted to scare them
off.

6. (C/NF) Berri claimed that he has not talked to Hizballah
Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah since July 13, nor does he

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want to. It is not easy anyways; it involves hours of
waiting. Berri asserted he was not responsible for how
Hizballah would respond to a cease-fire offer; or whether it

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would release the two Israeli soldiers it is holding.
However, Berri did confirm that he was in contact with PM
Siniora and was working with him on the crisis.

BERRI: HIZBALLAH
WINS EITHER WAY
---------------

7. (C/NF) Berri wondered how Israel can defeat Hizballah.
Hizballah will win whether Israel continues the war or not.
If the fighting stops now, Hizballah is victorious by virtue
of surviving 10 days of Israeli attacks. And Hizballah can
claim that the IDF was afraid to fight Hizballah on the
ground. If Israel invades southern Lebanon, Hizballah will
resist, and Amal armed men will fight along side them. And
the people would fight Israel, not Hizballah. Berri claimed
that there are currently four Amal fighters fighting along
side Hizballah militiamen at Maroun al-Ras, the site of
intense ground battles with the IDF. Berri also boasted that
Amal security officers on July 21 captured a Lebanese Shia
who was spying for Israeli intelligence. Amal turned the man
over to army intelligence. Today's edition of the Arabic
daily ""As Safir"" reported that the Israeli spy used special
""paper"" to mark buildings in the southern suburbs of Beirut
that Israeli aircraft can detect and target. They may be one
Hizballah member in the building, but perhaps 19 other
innocent families as well. That is why so many civilians are
killed, explained Berri.
FELTMAN
"

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