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Cable: Senior Lebanese official hoped Israel
would crush Hizbullah

LONDON — A leading Lebanese politician welcomed Israel's war with Hizbullah in 2006, U.S. documents show.


Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri expressed satisfaction with Israel's assault on Hizbullah in July 2006. A State Department cable asserted that Berri saw the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah as a leading rival of his Syrian-backed Amal movement. Both Amal and Hizbullah appeal to Lebanese Shi'ites, the largest ethnic community in the country.

"Berri condemned the ferocity of Israel's military response but admitted that a successful Israeli campaign against Hizbullah would be an excellent way to destroy Hizbullah's military aspirations and discredit their political ambitions," then-U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, said.

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Berri, leader of Amal for nearly 20 years, has denied the content of the cable. In a statement on Sept. 5, Berri insisted that Amal and Hizbullah were partners.

"The Amal movement was and remains a fundamental ally of Hizbullah," Berri said. "We have demanded the U.S. State Department provide us with the original cable through its embassy in Lebanon to determine whether WikiLeaks or Feltman is the liar."

Feltman, today a senior State Department official, reported on his meeting with Berri in July 2006 during the Israel-Hizbullah war. Feltman's cable to Washington, released by WikiLeaks, quoted Berri as saying that Israeli air strikes could harm Hizbullah.

"We are certain that Berri hates Hizbullah as much, or even more, than the [Western-backed] March 14 politicians," the cable said. "After all, Hizbullah's support is drawn from the Shi'ites who might otherwise be with Berri."

The U.S. cable quoted Berri as criticizing Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah and Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Amal leader said he felt betrayed by Nasrallah, who promised to maintain stability in Lebanon.

"We can never sit down at the table with him [Nasrallah] again," the cable said. "We think he lied to us."

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