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Viewing cable 07VATICAN127, HOLY SEE: LEBANESE ELECTIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07VATICAN127 2007-09-14 09:09 2010-12-10 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican
VZCZCXRO7529
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHSR
DE RUEHROV #0127/01 2570932
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 140932Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0789
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0819
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 000127 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 9/11/2017 
TAGS: PREL LE VT
SUBJECT: HOLY SEE: LEBANESE ELECTIONS 

VATICAN 00000127 001.2 OF 002 


CLASSIFIED BY: Christopher Sandrolini, DCM, EXEC, State. 
REASON: 1.4 (d) 
1. (C) Summary. Lebanese ambassador to the Holy See told Amb. 
Rooney September 11 that the Holy See values its contacts with 
the US but feels US should listen more closely to Vatican views. 
The recent visit of the Syrian deputy PM was mishandled by the 
Vatican, which failed to deliver a clear message. Patriarch 
Sfeir's recent visit to Rome was also uncomfortable; Sfeir knows 
his influence in Lebanon is limited. It is important for the 
USG to reach out to senior Vatican officials, primarily Cardinal 
Bertone and Archbishop Mamberti. The Holy See has good ties to 
Iran but has not yet acted diplomatically to build on those ties 
with regard to Lebanon. End summary. 

2. (C) Ambassador Rooney discussed the current situation in 
Lebanon September 11 with Lebanese ambassador to the Holy See 
Naji Abi Assi (protect). DCM and Special Assistant also 
attended. Following are observations made by Abi Assi. 

-- The Holy See sometimes complains that USG officials don't 
listen to it; but sometimes Holy See fails to say anything when 
it has the opportunity. He said he had heard that Cardinal 
Bertone appreciated his recent conversations with Secretary Rice 
and Under Secretary Burns. 

-- Syrian deputy president Faruq al-Sharaa, who met the Pope 
September 5, went away satisfied because of the papal penchant 
to speak in general terms, which works in Syria's favor here. 
In this case, the Pope reportedly urged that "a president for 
all Lebanese" be found, but did not go into detail about what 
exactly that would mean, or how it would be done. Syria would 
be quite happy with a pro-Syrian president accepted by all 
Lebanese -- hence al-Sharaa's satisfaction at the meeting -- 
though the Holy See had intended rather to urge that the choice 
be left to Lebanese, i.e. that Syria and others should not 
interfere. 

-- Patriarch Sfeir's visit last week was in fact arranged by the 
Lebanese ambassador to Italy, and Sfeir had not sought any Holy 
See meetings; this caused some friction with the Holy See when 
it learned of his visit (Vatican meetings did eventually occur). 
In Abi Assi's view, the Patriarch is relatively unable to 
influence events in Lebanon, and knows it; he is respected but 
not feared, and Christian factions feel free to ignore his 
pleas. Sfeir is still mistrustful of the U.S. because of some 
misunderstandings in the 1990s relating to proposed candidates 
for election to office in Lebanon. (Note: Abi Assi noted that 
although the Maronite Church is in full communion with Rome, it 
is self-governing -- in other words, the Patriarch cannot be 
dismissed and is essentially independent.) 

-- According to Abi Assi, the USG should make a greater effort 
to reach out to Cardinal Bertone and Archbishop Mamberti, rather 
than focusing on the Pope. The Holy See's small structure means 
that top officials rely heavily on individual experts to shape 
their policies; in this case, the key individual is Monsignor 
Franco Coppola (more or less equivalent to an office director), 
whose memos directly influence all his superiors. Coppola 
himself, though not openly anti-American, is very critical of 
the US role in the Middle East and repeatedly reminds listeners 
that President Bush should have listened to papal envoy Cardinal 
Pio Laghi, whom John Paul II had sent to Washington in 2003 to 
plead that the US avoid war in Iraq. 

-- The Holy See maintains dialogue with Syria and Iran, and 
urges the US to do so too. Iran places much value on its 
relationship with the Vatican, has a significant presence here, 
and maintains a vigorous dialogue with the Holy See. The Holy 
See has not, however, taken the initiative with either Syria or 
Iran to seek solutions to any of the regional problems involving 
those countries. In the case of Lebanon, Abi Assi is certain 
that both Syria and Iran are acting from self-interest rather 
than ideology, and therefore are potentially open to other 
courses of action. 

-- Until now, Mamberti has been continuously feeling his way and 
no clear policy has evolved. One day soon, however, Mamberti 
will advise Bertone clearly of his position, and then Holy See 
policy will be fixed. So, according to Abi Assi, we should act 
now to influence Mamberti. 

-- Michel Aoun has power to block any president in Lebanon. 

-- Papal Nuncio Gatti is an expert on Lebanon but is worn out, 
not active; however, no sign that he will be replaced. 

-- The most successful Holy See role in Lebanon will not be 
direct (as in uniting Christians or persuading Sfeir) but rather 
through influence with Lebanon's neighbors. 

-- Abi Assi had high praise for French Middle East envoy 
Jean-Claude Cousseran. 


VATICAN 00000127 002.2 OF 002 


3. (C) Comment: we have found Amb. Abi Assi to be consistently 
well informed and active. In particular we would agree on the 
need for us to focus on Mamberti in the near future, as his 
influence on the Holy See's approach to Lebanon will continue to 
be very strong. 
ROONEY