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Cablegate: First State of Babil Conference: Amidst the Gripes, a Pledge

VZCZCXRO6482
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHIHL #0047 1041705
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131705Z APR 08
FM REO HILLAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1073
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHIHL/REO HILLAH 1139

UNCLAS HILLAH 000047

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV IZ IR
SUBJECT: FIRST STATE OF BABIL CONFERENCE: AMIDST THE GRIPES, A PLEDGE
OF IMPROVED COOPERATION

1. (U) This is a PRT Babil cable.

2. (U) SUMMARY: On April 10, Governor Salam Salah Mahdi
al-Muslimawi and Provincial Council Chairman Muhammad Ali
Hussain Al-Massudi held a conference with District and
Sub-District leaders on the "State of Babil." Although much of
the discussion (at the Governor's urging) was a gripe session
about PRT projects, this first of its kind conference was a
first step forward in developing a province-wide dialogue. The
PCC agreed to improve strategic planning with districts; to move
ahead on projects in North Babil, where security has ostensibly
been an impediment; and to hold another conference in the future
for further discussion of concerns. END SUMMARY.

3. (U) While styled a "State of Babil" address, Governor Salam
Salah Mahdi al-Muslimawi's April 10 gathering of local and
district government leaders was more of a town hall meeting.
PRT, ePRT, and coalition force representatives attended the
session and saluted the Governor's initiative, while urging that
the focus be on better implementation of the Province's budget.
Provincial Council Chairman Muhammad ali Husayn al-Massudi (PCC)
and PC member Abd al-Razzak al-Nasrawi actually had the most
substantive exchanges with the participants. Attendees included
the mayors of Iskandariyah, Shawmali, Hashimiyah, Mahawil, Jurf
al-Saqr, and Madhatiyah; and the chairmen of the Hillah, Kifl,
Qasim, and Musayyib (acting) Qadhas. Unfortunately, only one
Director General (Ministry of Municipalities) was present. The
governor's opening remarks were short and contained no specific
program or policy announcements. He thanked the American
delegation for attending and noted the importance of Babil
province as the center of Iraq. He stressed his priority of
maintaining security and attracting investment as key to all
other reconstruction goals, especially those in tourism,
agriculture and industry.

4. (U) The governor invited the local government representatives
to address their concerns, specifically inviting them to "tell
the Americans about your experiences." Many of the requests and
complaints focused on the lack of coordination for US projects
with provincial officials, as well as criticisms about
contractor performance. The DG for Municipalities also jumped
on the bandwagon, complaining that American, provincial and
local officials all fail to coordinate municipal projects with
him and his ministry.

5. (U) The governor and PCC concluded the meeting with remarks
that acknowledged the need to improve strategic planning on
projects in cooperation with the districts and sub-districts.
Specifically, Jurf al-Saqr (N. Babil) got a commitment from the
governor for more attention and more projects now that the
security situation in the north was improving. The Governor and
PCC agreed to take the concerns expressed at the meeting, study
them and discuss them. The governor noted that he and other
provincial leaders learn from mistakes and agreed to hold
another meeting with local officials, which he promised would be
more productive.

6. (SBU)Following a break, the Governor directed Mayors and
Council Chairs to review security during the previous three
weeks and report back to him. He asked participants to work
with their IP chiefs to improve communication, though
interestingly the IP was not in attendance.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Outside of Hillah (the capitol) and Kifl (his
hometown), the Governor pays infrequent visits to other
municipalities despite numerous invitations and our urging. The
PRT and 3ID have promoted the idea for this conference with the
Governor. Although it did not adequately focus on how the
province and Qadhas can better work together, it was a first
step. The Governor has shown a willingness to continue the
process, leaving room for improvement in strengthening
Provincial-District cooperation - a linkage that has been rather
weak in Babil but may strengthen with the passage of the new
Provincial Powers Act.

HILLAS

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