Viewing cable 05MUSCAT258

05MUSCAT2582005-02-16 03:36:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 000258 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/15/2015 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard L. Baltimore III. 
Reason: 1.4 (b, d). 
¶1. (SBU) The Foreign Ministry quickly issued a statement on 
February 14 that condemned the murder of former Lebanese PM 
Rafiq Hariri, mourned his loss and expressed confidence that 
the crime would not undermine Lebanon's stability.  MFA 
contacts were loath to point fingers of blame, but expressed 
great concern that Lebanon not be allowed to descend again 
into civil war.  One official privately speculated that 
Lebanon will be increasingly intolerant of Syrian 
interference in its domestic affairs as a result.  Press 
coverage was generally straight, but some limited traffic on 
a popular Internet message board suggested an U.S. or Israeli 
hand in Hariri's murder.  End summary. 
MFA Quick to Condemn 
¶2. (U) Oman's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement 
to the Oman News Agency (ONA) on the evening of February 14 
that condemned the assassination by car bomb of former 
Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri in Beirut.  The text of the ONA 
report is as follows: 
(Begin text:) 
The Government of the Sultanate of Oman has strongly 
condemned the terrorist act of assassination of former 
Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. 
A statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 
that this crime, no matter how heinous, would not affect the 
stability and prosperity enjoyed by the brotherly state of 
"The martyrdom of Al Hariri is a huge loss, not only at the 
Lebanese level, but also at the level of the Arab region and 
the world at large," said the statement. 
The Omani government is expressing its condolences and 
sympathies to the Lebanese Government in general and the 
family of Al Hariri in particular, continued the statement, 
which also voiced prayers for the soul of Al Hariri and the 
other victims. 
(End text.) 
The MFA is selective in choosing which international events 
to hail or condemn, as the case may be, so it is telling that 
they moved so quickly to issue a statement in this case.  The 
Ministry's usual practice is not to divulge the actual text 
of its statement, leaving the ONA's version of the wording 
the only source from which to draw. 
Officials Not Pointing Fingers, But... 
¶3. (C) MFA Under Secretary Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi expressed 
to DCM at a February 15 lunch his shock at Hariri's murder, 
but would not entertain speculation at this point as to who 
may have been responsible.  He hoped the murder would not 
ignite a string of tit-for-tat killings that might spark 
wider sectarian violence.  MFA International Organizations 
Director Ambassador Talib Miran al-Raisi offered his private 
views in a February 15 meeting with Pol/Econ Chief.  Saying 
he had met Hariri on a few previous occasions, Ambassador 
Talib welcomed both the USG and MFA statements condemning his 
murder.  He urged that the police investigation be allowed to 
take its course before blame is assigned.  Confident that the 
murder will not plunge Lebanon back into civil war, Talib 
Miran did see this event as fueling Lebanese consensus that 
the time for permitting Syrian interference in its internal 
affairs is over.  Hind Bahwan, a prominent businesswoman from 
one of the leading commercial families, told EconOff that she 
was staying only a block away from the site of Hariri's 
murder but fortunately had left Beirut to return to Muscat 
just a few hours before the bombing. 
--------------------------------------------- - 
Low-Key Public Reactions Point to U.S., Israel 
--------------------------------------------- - 
¶4. (SBU) News of Hariri's murder made the headlines of all 
local Arabic and English-language dailies, though the MFA 
statement was issued after some of the papers had already 
gone to press.  The government-owned Arabic daily "Oman" ran 
a lead editorial February 15 condemning Hariri's murder under 
the rubric "A Hideous Crime."  The editorial hailed Hariri's 
role in rebuilding Lebanon, and urged that nation not to give 
in to conspiracies aimed at reigniting sectarian fighting. 
¶5. (SBU)  Omani public attention to the news has not been 
voluminous.  There were only a couple dozen postings on a 
popular Internet message board in reference to Hariri's 
murder.  All of the messages mourned his loss, hailed his 
good deeds for Lebanon and prayed for his soul.  Some of the 
entries blamed the U.S. or "the Jews" for his murder, and 
others ruled out any Syrian hand in the crime.  One 
contributed pointed to the Administration's condemnation of 
the assassination as proof that the "Black House" will target 
Syria as the next Arab state to attack.