INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Congressman Lantos Stresses Bilateral Achievements And

Published: Thu 31 Aug 2006 03:02 PM
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Brooke F Adams 09/05/2006 08:56:35 AM From DB/Inbox: ECPO
Cable
Text:
S E C R E T TRIPOLI 00453
SIPDIS
CXCAIRO:
ACTION: ECON
INFO: FAS DCM AMB AID MGT PA POL IPS FCS
DISSEMINATION: ECON
CHARGE: PROG
VZCZCCRO686
RR RUEHEG
DE RUEHTRO #0453/01 2431502
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 311502Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1140
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 0011
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 1290
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TRIPOLI 000453
SIPDIS
STATE FOR NEA/MAG, NEA/ELA, NEA/IPA
LONDON FOR TSOU
E.O. 12958: DECL: 8/28/2016
TAGS: OREP PREL PTER PGOV LY
SUBJECT: CONGRESSMAN LANTOS STRESSES BILATERAL ACHIEVEMENTS AND
REGIONAL CHALLENGES WITH LIBYAN OFFICIALS
REF: A) TRIPOLI 11
CLASSIFIED BY: Elizabeth Fritschle, Pol/Econ Chief, United
States Liaison Office, DOS.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
CLASSIFIED BY: Elizabeth Fritschle, Pol/Econ Chief, United
States Liaison Office, DOS.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (SBU) In a series of meetings with senior Libyan officials
during his August 22-24 trip to Libya, Congressman Tom Lantos,
ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee,
reviewed bilateral achievements since his first visit to the
country in January, 2004 and set new goals for enhanced future
cooperation. The Congressman, accompanied by Charge Berry, House
International Relations Committee (HIRC) Senior Professional
Staff Member Alan Makovsky, HIRC Professional Staff Member Mike
Beard, and Poloff, met with the Libyan Leader Moammar Qadhafi,
Director of the Qadhafi Development Foundation Seif Al-Islam
Qadhafi, Libyan Director of Military Intelligence Abdullah
Sanussi, Director of the External Security Organization Musa
Kusa, Secretary of the General Peoples Committee for Foreign
Liaison and International Cooperation (Foreign Minister
equivalent) Abdurrahman Shalgam, Secretary of American Affairs
Ahmed Fatouri and Secretary for European Affairs Abdelati Obeidi
of the General Peoples Committee for Foreign Liaison and
International Cooperation. The Congressman's trip partially
overlapped with visit of Senator Arlen Specter (septel) and
several official meetings were combined.
2. (SBU) In all meetings with GOL interlocutors, the Congressman
stressed that the two major goals that he set in January, 2004
on his first trip to Libya had been achieved: the removal of
Libya from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism list and the
reestablishment of full diplomatic relations. His next goal is
to increase the number of Libyan students studying in America
from 150, the present figure, to 6,000 over the next three
years. He also emphasized the need of the GOL to enhance its
image and presence in the United States by either opening
additional consulates in cities like New York and Los Angeles,
or establishing honorary consulates. He used the Saudi Embassy
in Washington as an example of a country that has successfully
enhanced its image in America by investing considerable
financial resources in its Embassy.
THE LEADER, ONCE AGAIN, STRESSES WAHABI EXTREMISM
--------------------------------------------- ---
3.(C) On August 22 in his desert encampment on the outskirts of
Sirte, the Leader of the Revolution Moammar Qadhafi greeted the
entire delegation, but dedicated the majority of time to an
hour-long tjte-`-tjte with Representative Lantos focusing on
Wahabism in Saudi Arabia, which has become one of his standard
topics. The leader emphasized his anxiety over the spread of
religious fundamentalism in the Kingdom, citing a recent
supposed statement of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia that Saudi
students should be barred from attending university in the
United States. He also berated the spread of Wahabist thought
in mosques and schools inside and outside of the Kingdom. The
leader urged the US to call for "self determination" for tribal
groups of Saudi Arabia, who would presumably chose a government
other than the present monarchy. Qadhafi also lobbied for
support of his plan to create "Isratine" as the best solution
for lasting peace in the Middle East. He did not bring up any
aspects of the GOL's bilateral relationship with the US during
the meeting.
4. (C) Congressman Lantos and Senator Specter were scheduled
for separate meetings with Qadhafi in Sirte. While Specter's
delegation traveled by U.S. military aircraft to Sirte,
Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the General People's Congress,
Suleiman Shihumi, chartered a Air Libya plane from Mitiga
International Airport for the Lantos delegation. Shihumi
greeted Lantos warmly, facilitated the Qadhafi meeting, and
arranged for a official banquet with General Peoples Committee
delegates from the Sirte region. During the one-hour flight, an
Egyptian movie entitled "The Leader" starring screen favorite
Adel Imam was shown to the delegation and Libyan protocol
officers. Security personnel and a local translator confirmed
that many of the jokes in the movie, that obviously make fun of
a Middle Eastern dictator, could be aimed at Qadhafi or Mubarak,
including a scene showing disregard for members of the cabinet.
(Embassy Ccomment: It is unclear if this was to show that the
leader does in fact have a sense of humor about his monopoly on
political power, or that a certain degree of toleration exists
in Libya, or that the Libyans love a movie that pokes fun at
Egyptian politics -- if in fact the Libyans intended any message
at all. End Comment.)
CONCERNS OVER SAUDI WAHABISM AS SOURCE OF EXTREMISM AND
TERRORISM REITERATED
--------------------------------------------- --------------
-----------------
5. (S) Libyan Director of Military Intelligence Abdullah Sanussi
held a joint meeting with Congressman Lantos and Senator Specter
on August 23, calling for increased cooperation in all aspects
of our relationship, specifically technology and knowledge
transfer. In a theme similar to Representative Lantos' last
meeting with Sanussi (ref A), he reiterated the leader's deep
concern with Wahabism and the Saudi government's purported link
to Al-Qaeda. Sanussi stated that after 9/11, the GOL was
perplexed by US behavior as they expected a "judgment day" for
Saudi Arabia, home to a majority of the highjackers, not an
invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Sanussi also took credit for
the GOL putting Osama bin Laden on an Interpol watch list in
1997, showing that they had an inkling of events to come far in
advance of 9/11.
6. (S) When Senator Specter pressed Sanussi for solid proof
linking Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to the Saudi government,
Sanussi orchestrated a subsequent meeting between Congressman
Lantos and Mohamed Ismail, the Libyan national who was
imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for 10 months and charged with a plot
to assassinate then Crown Prince Abdallah. Ismail, who speaks
fluent English, is the son of a former Libyan diplomat, and was
educated abroad. For several years, he worked at Seif
Al-Islam's Qadhafi Development Foundation, on various projects
such as negotiating the release of western hostages in the
Philippines. Ismail claimed that he worked closely with Saudi
opposition groups in London who tried to "create a free radio
station in Saudi Arabia" but was arrested on trumped up charges.
Ismail talked at length about "specialized treatment" that
Wahabi detainees receive in Saudi prisons, claiming that they
receive cash, and are being recruited to fight in Iraq.
(Embassy Comment: Embassy notes that testimony in a US court
differs considerably from this Libyan version of events. End
Comment.)
SENIOR OFFICIALS GIVE OPINIONS ON NEW EMBASSY COMPOUND
--------------------------------------------- ---------
7. (C) In meetings with Faturi, Obeidi, and FM Shalgam on August
23, Representative Lantos continuously pressed on the theme of a
need for a secure, efficient US Embassy chancery, calling the
lack of an Embassy his "biggest disappointment" with the state
of our current relationship, especially because it impedes the
issuance of visas. He stressed the need for "land with a clear
title," adding his hopes for the Libyan Embassy in Washington to
increase in size and scope. Shalgam expressed concern over
proposed NEC sites because they are "such a long drive from
downtown," instead arguing that a more proper place is the
"Shaat Club" located in downtown. (The British, Italian,
Turkish, and Egyptian Embassies are located in this area near
the waterfront). In a separate meeting, ESO Chief Kusa echoed
Shalgam's worries, asserting that the proposed NEC site in
Farjan is "too open and vulnerable to attack. You should listen
to my advice. Anyone could attack and run away". Kusa also
argued for the idea of opening up a new Embassy in the Shaat
Club area and was not keen on the idea of an entirely new
Embassy compound. Per septel, Qadhafi expressed similar
concerns over U.S. plans to build a large NEC.
REGIONAL EVENTS -- VIEWS EXCHANGED ON HIZBALLAH AND LEBANON
--------------------------------------------- ------------
8. (C) Regional events in Lebanon and Israel accounted for much
of the conversation in meetings with GOL interlocutors. Sanussi
called Israel's "excessive reaction" to Hizballah attacks "the
reason Nasrallah is a hero in the eyes of the people." Shalgam
stressed that people in the region were "very impressed" with
Hizballah's ability to withhold Israeli military might for 32
days. He also warned that in order for the cease fire to last,
European nations must be willing to send more troops. Lantos
stressed that Hizballah has the intent of destroying Israel and
that the force employed by the Israeli army equaled the threat
of Hizballah to the nation of Israel. Throughout his meetings,
he repeatedly used the analogy that if a rebel force was
operating out of Canada and threatened US security, we would
clearly use heavy force in combating that threat.
IRAN MODEL VS LIBYA MODEL
-------------------------
9. (S) In an August 24 meeting with Director of External
Security Musa Kusa, Lantos called the difference between Iran
and Libya "monumental" and predicted that books will be written
about the historic decision Qadhafi took in giving up its WMDs.
While Kusa seemed to agree, he expressed worry over the
imbalance that was created with the changes in Iraq, tipping the
scales towards Iran. "Iran and Iraq used to balance each other
out...now, there is no balance." He said the Libyans were "sure
that the Iranians are enriching uranium and making a bomb,"
adding that events in Lebanon are really just an "Iranian-Syrian
game". He also expressed a concern about the estimated 300
Libyans aiding the insurgency in Iraq: "We can't control our
own children. We are doing our best, but we uncover a new cell
everyday."
SOMALIA FALLING TO EXTREMISTS
-----------------------------
10. (C) Both Sanussi and Shalgam expressed a growing concern
with the deteriorating state of affairs in Somalia. Sanussi
said that the Taliban is running Somalia and in a short while,
it is bound to become another Afghanistan. Shalgam worried that
Somalia is being hurled "back into the Middle Ages" by the
current leadership and that the younger generation there is
easily seduced by Muslim extremists: "We won't be able to
convince younger generation that their leadership is wrong."
MUBARAK NOT PLEASED WITH YOUNG QADHAFI'S SPEECH
--------------------------------------------- --
11. (C) Congressman Lantos began a meeting with Seif Al-Islam
Qadhafi, director of the Qadhafi Development Foundation, by
congratulating him on his speech earlier in the week that called
for significant political and economic reform, including
enhanced freedom of the press. "I am very proud of your speech,"
Lantos said of the two-hour monologue which was broadcast on
every radio and television station in the country. Seif
immediately noted that President Mubarak of Egypt called his
father, the leader, to express his displeasure with the speech,
saying it called for "too much change and too much freedom" and
warning that the country should be more conservative in its
approach to change. Seif claimed he does not know what his
father's reply to Mubarak was. (Embassy Comment: Since the
speech was broadcast widely on state-run media, it must have at
least had the tacit blessing of the leader. End Comment). Seif
added that the speech took about two or three years to develop
and hinted that there may be another forthcoming speech,
focusing more on politics and the creation of a constitution.
He added that he intends to "close all pending human rights
cases and start a new beginning for the country."
12. (S) Seif, who took a passive role during most of the
meeting, then queried Lantos about Iran, stating that the
Iranians are telling the GOL that "the Americans are playing a
game with you" and will refuse allow replacement of Libya's SCUD
missiles, instead stripping the GOL of its weaponry. "They have
told us that the Americans will let us down." Representative
Lantos countered that those assertions are untrue and that the
USG truly appreciates what the GOL has done in abandoning its
WMD program. Seif then asked about the disarmament of
Hizballah, which Lantos replied is a "must" as all countries
must be in control of their own borders: "Nasrallah has set the
development of Lebanon back years." Lantos invited Seif to join
him on his next trip to North Korea to share Libya's story of
giving up WMDs, a "major gesture for peace globally."
US BUSINESS REPS TALK OIL AND VISAS
-----------------------------------
13. (SBU) Congressman Lantos and Senator Specter met with U.S.
business leaders on August 23 representing Amerada Hess,
Marathon Oil, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, Conoco-Philipps, and
Occidental. The businessmen expressed optimism about increasing
oil output in the coming years in Libya, but were frustrated by
continued visa challenges. They cited the initial optimism that
existed when bilateral relations were restored, but difficulties
both in obtaining visas for Americans to come to Libya and in
sending local and third country national employees to the United
States have dampened that feeling to some degree. Still, on the
big picture issues like personal security and government
corruption, they see Libya as offering a relatively favorable
operating environment compared to their counterparts working in
Nigeria, Indonesia, Colombia and other oil-production states.
14. (SBU) Congressman Lantos and Senator Specter did not clear
this cable before departing Tripoli.
BERRY
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