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Cablegate: Meles Tells Codel Inhofe Hr2003 Insulting

VZCZCXRO1558
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #3434/01 3370449
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 030449Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8719
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 003434

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OREP PREL PGOV EAID PTER ET SO
SUBJECT: MELES TELLS CODEL INHOFE HR2003 INSULTING

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles acknowledged Ethiopia's
challenges as an emerging democracy to a visiting CODEL led by
Senator James Inhofe, but clearly stressed that H.R. 2003 - The
Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act - was an insult and risks
jeopardizing the excellent U.S.-Ethiopia relationship if enacted
into law. Meles noted Ethiopia's strong commitment to
counter-terrorism, but emphasized that Ethiopia does not expect a
special treatment because of its strong CT cooperation. He did
request, however, that the U.S. express its legitimate constructive
criticism of Ethiopian actions in a fair and respectful manner and
refrain from legislating about the "minutia of internal politics in
Ethiopia." Meles appreciated the robust military, economic, and
diplomatic cooperation with the United States, but stressed that
Ethiopia would not stand down in its own fight against terrorism
even if legislation resulted in a significantly diminished
relationship. Senator Inhofe and members of his delegation thanked
the Prime Minister for his candor and for the strong U.S.-Ethiopian
cooperation. Senator Inhofe said that H.R. 2003 does not reflect
the position of the United States. End Summary.


2. (U) Prime Minister Meles hosted Senator Inhofe's delegation
including Congressmen Ander Crenshaw, Robert Aderholt, Dan Boren,
Tim Walberg, and Mike McIntyre on November 29. The delegation was
joined by Congressional staff members, Ambassador Yamamoto, and
PolCouns (note taker). Tesfaye Yilma and Fesseha Tesfu, MFA
Director General for the Americas and Europe and Deputy Chief
Advisor to the Foreign Ministry respectively accompanied the Prime
Minister.

ETHIOPIA'S COMMITMENT TO FIGHTING TERRORISM
-------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Prime Minister Meles opened the meeting by noting the Horn
of Africa's position as the "epicenter" of the terrorist threat in
the region. Meles argued that terrorists want to establish a
caliphate here despite what he proclaimed to be Abyssinia's unique
status as the only country in the world that may not be the target
of jihad due to the Prophet Mohammed's instruction to followers to
protect it. Its geographic position has forced Ethiopia to remain
entrenched in the fight against terrorism since the 1990s to protect
its own national interests, Meles stated. The Prime Minister
emphasized that it was the fight against terrorism that forced
Ethiopia to take military action in Somalia against the Council of
Islamic Courts and affiliated militias last year and he noted that
it was a unilateral decision based on Ethiopia's interests. Meles
emphasized that Ethiopia did not request financial support from the
U.S. for that endeavor, but noted that Ethiopia derived adequate
satisfaction from the strong U.S.-Ethiopia cooperation since then as
it was evident to Ethiopia that the U.S. "was in the same trench" as
Ethiopia. Ethiopia is fighting terrorism in its own interests, he
stated, "we will do it with or without the U.S., but we prefer to do
it with you."

ETHIOPIA'S SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON DEMOCRATIZATION...
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (SBU) Moving beyond the war against terror, the Prime Minister
argued that Ethiopia's survival depends on democratization as it is
too divisive for anything else. While stressing that the government
is serious about democratization, Meles was quick to note that it is
Ethiopia's process. After recounting the government's version of
events following the 2005 elections, Meles conceded that the
Ethiopian Government (GoE) had made mistakes and could have done
better with better training and equipment. He then shifted to the
positive democratic openings that have occurred since late 2006 --
revised parliamentary rules to accommodate a multi-party
legislature, a reform agenda for the National Electoral Board, and
the pardon of 71 opposition leaders convicted for post-election
disturbances.

...BUT DON'T LEGISLATE HOW WE DO IT
-----------------------------------

5. (SBU) Meles quickly moved to H.R. 2003, the "fly in the ointment"
of an otherwise strong bilateral relationship. The Prime Minister
objected to the House-passed bill, arguing that it is unfair and
unduly singles out Ethiopia. Highlighting the lack of human rights
or democratic institutions or processes in the "open air prison" of
Eritrea, Meles argued that H.R. 2003 effectively represented the
United States "kicking its friend" when others have far more
egregious records. Meles particularly highlighted a provision in
the bill limiting security assistance until the President certifies

ADDIS ABAB 00003434 002 OF 002


that Ethiopia's National Electoral Board (NEB) includes
representatives from all parties in parliament. Meles argued that
such a provision not only does not reflect a U.S. best practice --
where no national elections board exist and ruling parties at the
state level administer elections -- but contradicts an agreement
between the ruling and opposition parties from the inter-party
dialogue that NEB members would be politically neutral. Despite the
fact that that provision was already in an earlier version of the
bill before the inter-party dialogue began, Meles argued that the
bill's sponsor included the provision to accommodate disgruntled
rejectionists in the opposition who were unwilling to accept the
NEB's independence.

6. (SBU) Meles concluded by noting that he felt personally insulted
by the House of Representative's passage of H.R. 2003 as it
reflected a friendly country telling Ethiopia how to operate and
suggested that the ultimate enactment of the bill, if passed by the
Senate, would jeopardize the excellent U.S.-Ethiopia cooperative
relationship. As friends, Meles advised, the United States should
be fair and respectful if it is going to criticize Ethiopia, but
"don't legislate about the minutia of internal politics in
Ethiopia."

H.R. 2003 IS NOT THE POSITION OF THE UNITED STATES
--------------------------------------------- -----

7. (SBU) Senator Inhofe was quick to clarify to the Prime Minister
that H.R. 2003 had not yet "passed the Congress" as Meles repeatedly
lamented, and noted his own speech on the Senate floor opposing the
bill -- comments which the GoE have acclaimed and reproduced
throughout state media sources. Congressmen Aderholt, Boren, and
Walberg explained U.S. parliamentary procedure and how the
combination of being introduced under suspended rules and subjected
to a voice vote helped expedite H.R. 2003 through the House without
the degree of scrutiny that it may have deserved. Congressman
Walberg remarked that the Prime Minister's discussion "helps remind
us of the consequences of our decisions" and Congressman Crenshaw
highlighted the utility of a bicameral legislature which provides an
additional safeguard to ensure a thorough vetting of potential
legislation. Senator Inhofe and the entire delegation said that
H.R. 2003 has not passed the Congress and does not reflect the
position of the United States. Senator Inhofe strongly opposes the
bill. All members of the delegation expressed their sincere
appreciation to the Prime Minister and the Ethiopian Government for
the robust bilateral relationship and cooperation that the U.S. and
Ethiopia share.

8. (U) Senator Inhofe has cleared this cable.

YAMAMOTO

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