102026 3/26/2007 17:17 07BUCHAREST349 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL VZCZCXRO5703 OO RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHFL RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0349/01 0851717 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 261717Z MAR 07 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6322 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUEHBM/USDAO BUCHAREST RO PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000349
STATE FOR EUR AND NEA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/25/2017 TAGS: MOPS, MARR, MCAP, PREL, PGOV, IZ, RO SUBJECT: PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR WITHDRAWAL OF ROMANIAN TROOPS FROM IRAQ BY CHRISTMAS
Classified By: The Ambassador for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (SBU) Claiming that Romania's military has fulfilled its mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu announced during a speech on March 26 that he would do his utmost -- within his constitutional authority -- to see that all Romanian military forces would come home from Iraq by Christmas. He stated that this withdrawal would follow a schedule that would be agreed upon by partners and allies. He added that the time had come for the Romanian military to return home in order to "build together Romania's European future."
2. (U) In a speech in Bucharest on 3/26 before an annual conference of Romanian mayors, Tariceanu outlined a number of broad political objectives, designed, he said, to pursue "one project: Romania's change into a strong European country." After listing several populist-sounding goals like a cut in social security taxes, the Prime Minister said the following:
Begin translation. "The last priority of my plan is a highly sensitive issue. The time has come to bring our military, women, and men, back home. It is time for them to come back home to build together Romania's European future! I will do everything that is in my power, according to my constitutional duties, in order to bring back home the Romanian military troops deployed in Iraq by Christmas, according to a calendar agreed upon with our allies and partners.
I want the tax cut because I believe that this is the only means to encourage a healthy economic growth, I want to keep our Romanian values and traditions in the EU, and I want the Romanian troops to come back home from Iraq. We need everybody's efforts, solidarity, and unity.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is why I urge Romanian politicians to forget that they are politicians. I urge them to show solidarity in the effort of being Romanians, of preserving Romanian values and traditions, of protecting and fighting for Romania's interests." End translation.
3. (C) Early reaction to Tariceanu's call for a withdrawal from Iraq by Christmas was muted, in part because the Romanian media is focused on the more immediate political question of whether the PD will be forced out of the government, which in turn would provoke the final rupture of the Democratic Alliance, as early as tonight. New presidential national security advisor Mihai Stanisoara told us that the PM's speech was "a very, very political statement," that lacked substance and needed to be viewed through the prism of Tariceanu's current anti-Basescu political strategy. Stanisoara said that he would plan Cotroceni's response with an eye towards the upcoming March 29 meeting of the Supreme Defense Council (CSAT). Minister of Defense Frunzaverde has reached out to discuss the Iraq question with the Ambassador on 3/27; the Minister's Chief of Staff, Gen. Viorel Angelescu, said that for the time being the Ministry would have no comment on the Prime Minister's withdrawal call. The Prime Minister's career foreign policy handlers, once again confined to the back of the policy bus, were almost apologetic for Tariceanu's latest foray on withdrawing Romanian troops from Iraq. His foreign policy advisor Amb. Calin Fabian called the Embassy twice, both before and after the PM's remarks, to stress that they were entirely consistent with the PM's past statements and would break no new ground. In the wake of a more robust formulation by the PM than perhaps he had anticipated, Fabian stressed in his second call that the PM's remarks were "only a public statement...not the end, but only the beginning of a process." "In principle," he insisted, Tariceanu "would like to see the withdrawal happen, but nevertheless not without detailed consultations with allies."
4. (C) Comment: Tariceanu's renewed call for a withdrawal of Romanian forces from Iraq reflects a continued determination within his National Liberal Party (PNL) to make this a political issue which can work in the PM's favor. The PNL reportedly gathered more than one million signatures on a petition demanding the withdrawal of Romanian forces, and has been chomping at the bit to make use of it. On the eve of what looks to be the final split between the two palaces, a faux emotional call for the troops to return home by Christmas allows Tariceanu to distinguish himself from
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Basescu, who is heavily identified with the overseas Romanian deployments and a pro-U.S. approach more generally. Clearly, the politically ascendant PM does not expect a replay of last June's fiasco when he and then-Defense Minister Atanasiou abruptly demanded Romania's withdrawal from Iraq -- a faux pas that at that time strengthened Basescu's political stature at Tariceanu's expense. Tariceanu's announcement sets the scene for a possible showdown at the next CSAT -- a forum where President Basescu may have fewer votes in hand now that FM Ungureanu and SIE Director Saftoiu have left the scene. Tariceanu's stronger Europeanist orientation is suggested by his assertion that the troops are needed at home to build Romania's "European future." End Comment.