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Cablegate: Libyan Foreign Affairs Chair Previews Upcoming People's

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DE RUEHTRO #0106/01 0391138
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081138Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3059
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0383
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RUEHVT/AMEMBASSY VALLETTA PRIORITY 0269
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0114
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 3538

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000106

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2/8/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL LY
SUBJECT: LIBYAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHAIR PREVIEWS UPCOMING PEOPLE'S
CONGRESS SESSION

TRIPOLI 00000106 001.2 OF 002 CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (C) Summary: The head of the foreign affairs committee of Libya's national parliament told CDA February 4 that he expects a "heated" debate during the General People's Congress' (GPC) upcoming annual session, scheduled for February 20 - March 1, focusing on public sector employment, teachers, and foreign policy. Acknowledging widespread reports that a cabinet shuffle is likely, the GPC's Secretary for Foreign Affairs Suleiman al-Shahumi spoke out strongly in defense of FM Shalgham, rumored to be among those who may lose his seat, and Shalgham's role promoting good relations with the United States. Shahumi also provided a detailed overview of how Libya's unusual government operates, noting the "theoretically democratic" system struggles with an under-educated populace and enduring tribal rivalries. He told CDA the U.S. should do more to push bilateral relations forward, starting with providing full consular services for Libyans in Tripoli. End Summary.

SHAHUMI EXPECTS A "HARD" GPC SESSION

2. (C) Shahumi previewed for CDA the annual meeting of the General People's Congress, tentatively scheduled for February 20 to March 1. He expected a "hard session" based on the quantity of proposals put forward by the 468 Basic People's Congresses (BPC's). (Note: the BPC's, which are local-level councils, convened in mid January and put forward their proposals late last month. End note.) He singled out the Manpower and Basic Education Ministries for particular criticism, noting that many BPCs had referred to the GPC complaints about senior-level appointments, reductions in the number of public sector jobs, and changes to teachers' requirements that have dramatically reduced the number of qualified teachers in Libya.

3. (C) On foreign policy, Shahumi said he expected a "heated debate" but spoke out strongly in defense of FM Abdurrahman Shalgham. Stressing that the MFA has no policy-making role, he said the MFA, under FM Shalgham, has "correctly" implemented Libya's foreign policy as envisioned by the GPC and, ultimately, "the people." "We are very happy with Shalgham's performance," he said. Shahumi noted that Shalgham alone cannot speed up development of the U.S.-Libya relationship, and said the U.S. should do more, such as allowing Libyans to apply for visas in Tripoli. CDA responded that the U.S. hopes to offer full consular services by January 2009 at a temporary embassy site currently under construction.

AN OVERVIEW OF LIBYA'S POLITICAL SYSTEM

4. (SBU) Shahumi also briefed CDA on Libya's system of cascading People's Congresses. A single, national General People's Congress (GPC) is the highest policy formation body in the country, he explained. Membership consists of the heads of 468 municipal Basic People's Congresses (BPCs). The GPC has two functions: it debates and implements recommendations of the 468 BPCs, and it appoints and evaluates the national executive authority, the General People's Committee (i.e., the cabinet).

5. (SBU) BPC meetings have been on-going throughout Libya since mid-January, he said. The BPCs are distributed based on population -- Tripoli has 35 -- and differ in appearance from community to community; however, all have common responsibilities to debate the national budget, propose new legislation, and review the conduct of the national executive authority, the General People's Committee. BPCs cannot make final decisions, but they can refer notes for consideration by the national GPC.

6. (SBU) Shahumi spoke at length on the GPC's role in evaluating cabinet officials to ensure they are appropriately implementing the GPC's policies. On the basis of notes assembled from the 468 BPCs, the GPC, acting as the "prosecution," questions cabinet officials on their performance. Officials are given an opportunity to respond and individual members of the GPC are allowed to ask follow-up questions. If the GPC accepts the cabinet official's justification for his conduct, the official may remain in his position with or without some form of punishment short of termination. If not, the official can either resign or be involuntary terminated by the TRIPOLI 00000106 002.2 OF 002 GPC. Pressed by CDA, Shahumi clarified that the GPC does not actually vote on individual cabinet appointments but arrives at decisions by consensus.

7. (SBU) In addition, the GPC elects an eight-member Secretariat to perform GPC functions between annual meetings of SIPDIS the full Congress. The Secretariat consists of a Secretary-General (the head of state equivalent), a Deputy SIPDIS Secretary-General, a Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Shahumi), a SIPDIS Secretary for the People's Congresses, a Secretary for the SIPDIS People's Committee, a Secretary for Legal Affairs, a Secretary for Women's Affairs, and a Secretary for Trade Unions. The Secretariat oversees the conduct of the General People's SIPDIS Committee when the GPC is not in session.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES TO LIBYA'S UNUSUAL SYSTEM

8. (SBU) Shahumi conceded Libya's unusual system has both advantages and disadvantages. The GPC system is "theoretically democratic, but there are shortcomings," he said. Shahumi cited a lack of political education and enduring personal and tribal rivalries has obstacles to the smooth functioning of the People's Congresses. Referring to the U.S. presidential primary, Shahumi joked, "at least it's better than parties."

POLITICAL DIFFICULTIES REMAIN IN U.S.-LIBYA RELATIONS

9. (C) On bilateral issues, Shahumi offered the GOL's familiar refrain that the U.S. has not sufficiently compensated Libya for its 2003 WMD renunciation; however, Libya had "exercised its sovereignty" in choosing to re-engage with the U.S. He said that, while political will within the Libyan leadership exists to move forward, "political difficulties" obstruct the restoration of "normal" relations. He cited the lack of full consular services for Libyan citizens in Tripoli, supposedly unfulfilled U.S. promises to support the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and the absence of major health equipment donations as examples of insufficient progress from the U.S. side. Shahumi opined that the GOL faces pressures from "inside and outside" (i.e., within Libyan political circles and from regional players) on the U.S.-Libya relationship and that it "shouldn't be this way;" however, he offered no further practical suggestions for improvement. STEVENS 0 02/08/2008 6783 PGOV,PREL,LY LIBYAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHAIR PREVIEWS UPCOMING PEOPLE'S CONGRESS SESSION TRIPOLI 00000106 001.2 OF 002 The head of the foreign affairs committee of Libya's national parliament told CDA February 4 that he expects a "heated" debate during the General People's Congress' (GPC) upcoming annual session, scheduled for February 20 - March 1, focusing on public sector employment, teachers, and foreign policy. Acknowledging widespread reports that a cabinet shuffle is likely, the GPC's Secretary for Foreign Affairs Suleiman al-Shahumi spoke out strongly in defense of FM Shalgham, rumored to be among those who may lose his seat, and Shalgham's role promoting good relations with the United States. Shahumi also provided a detailed overview of how Libya's unusual government operates, noting the "theoretically democratic" system struggles with an under-educated populace and enduring tribal rivalries. He told CDA the U.S. should do more to push bilateral relations forward, starting with providing full consular services for Libyans in Tripoli.
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