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Viewing cable 06TUNIS2570, SUHA ARAFAT ACQUIRES TUNISIAN NATIONALITY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06TUNIS2570 2006-10-17 06:06 2010-12-13 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tunis
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #2570 2900641
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 170641Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2039
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L TUNIS 002570

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR NEA/MAG (HARRIS) AND NEA/IPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/17/2016
TAGS: PREL KPAL TS
SUBJECT: SUHA ARAFAT ACQUIRES TUNISIAN NATIONALITY

REF: TUNIS 2565

Classified By: CDA David Ballard for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (SBU) The Government of Tunisia's Official Journal of
September 26 published a notice that Suha Arafat, wife of the
late Palestinian Authority president, and her 11-year old
daughter Zahwa had acquired Tunisian nationality. Mrs.
Arafat and her daughter have been living in Tunisia since the
2004 death of Yasser Arafat, and Zahwa Arafat attends the
American Cooperative School of Tunisia. Suha Arafat's
presence in Tunisia long predates that, however. She had
been a resident of Tunisia prior to her marriage, and, after
residing in the Palestinian Territories from 1996-98, she
returned in 1998, alternating between residences in France
and Tunisia.

2. (SBU) The above news item has been picked up by various
media outlets, including Reuters. Other recent wire reports
on Mrs. Arafat, reporting her alleged marriage to Belhassen
Trabelsi, the brother-in-law of Tunisian President Zine El
Abidine Ben Ali, are false, however, and Mrs. Arafat has been
quite vocal in denying them in the press.

3. (C) Comment: We remain puzzled as to why Mrs. Arafat
would want Tunisian citizenship, and why now, since she
already enjoyed the privilege of a Tunisian diplomatic
passport, and we doubt that she was eager to exercise her
right to vote in Tunisia or become a member of the Tunisian
National Assembly. The only other tangible benefit of
citizenship is that Tunisian law forbids foreigners to own
agricultural land -- and Mrs. Arafat is not known to be an
aspiring farmer. One possible motivation is that under
Tunisian law, foreign participation in a totally
non-exporting service industry cannot exceed 50 percent.
Several months ago, Mrs. Arafat set up one such company -- to
build an international school in Tunis. Tunisian citizenship
will allow her to control this company. As for what was in
such a move for the GOT, Post suspects that a continuing
desire on the part of the government to market itself as
closely tied to the Palestinian people played a role. The
GOT probably feels the need for some Palestinian "cover"
during this time when newspapers are full of stories on the
government's campaign against the hijab (reftel). In
addition, Mrs. Arafat is said to be good friends with the
First Lady, Leila Ben Ali. End Comment.
BALLARD