Cablegate: Chemical Weapons Convention (Cwc): Conversion of the Rabta Chemical Weapons Production Facility
DE RUEHTRO #0466/01 1671548
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 151548Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3530
INFO RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE IMMEDIATE 0078
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0822
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0500
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0429
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4036
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TRIPOLI 000466
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND ISN (FERGUSON)
E.O. 12958: DECL: 6/15/2018
TAGS: PARM PREL CWC OPCW CBW CH JA IT LY
SUBJECT: CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION (CWC): CONVERSION OF THE RABTA CHEMICAL WEAPONS PRODUCTION FACILITY
REF: A) STATE 58476, B) THE HAGUE 482, C) TRIPOLI 119
CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: The GOL's lead interlocutor on CWC issues told us: 1) conversion of the Rabta chemical weapons production facility would not be completed until December 2009 (which the GOL appears to have known since early 2006), 2) the GOL would not submit a new National Paper at the upcoming June 24-27 Executive Committee meeting of the OPCW, 3) GOL Delreps would/would read an official statement into the record of the EC's informal session that would address all points stipulated in ref A non-paper; 4) the GOL was ready to facilitate a bilateral visit by U.S. technical experts at any time, and; 5) despite delays, the GOL expects to complete destruction of chemical agents well before the deadline it agreed to with States Parties. End summary.
2. (SBU) P/E Chief conveyed ref A demarche points and non-paper on June 12 to Dr. Ahmed Hesnawy, who heads Libya's CWC compliance efforts, and Adel Ben Issa, who has the lead on CWC issues in the International Organization Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA/IO). Dr. Fathi Asseid, Technical Director of the General Company for the Manufacture of Pharmaceuticals and Medical Supplies, which controls the Rabta facility and a related pharmaceutical packaging plant, also attended the meeting. Stressing the GOL's commitment to transparency in declaring its CWC-related equipment, implementing conversion of the Rabta facility and destroying chemical weapon precursors, Dr. Hesnawy thanked the U.S. and U.K. for their "robust" support for Libya's efforts to date. Per ref A, copies of the non-paper and an oral brief on the demarche points were conveyed to U.K. and Italian Embassy counterparts in Tripoli.
3. (SBU) On the points of the demarche, Hesnawy indicated the following: - CONVERSION DELAY: Conversation of the Rabta chemical weapons production facility will not be completed before November/December 2009. The GOL signed an original contract with Italian company PharmaChem on February 11, 2002; an addendum to that contract, signed on June 1, 2006 (which Hesnawy showed P/E Chief), stipulated that PharmaChem's portion of conversion work at the Rabta facility would be completed by September 2009. The GOL, factoring in possible unexpected delays, added three months to the timeline, yielding an expected completion date of December 2009. Hesnawy did not respond when asked why Libya had not notified States Parties earlier that conversion would be delayed if it had known since February 2006 that the contract with PharmaChem stipulated a completion date in late 2009. He insisted that the GOL would complete the conversion project and initiate production of pharmaceuticals at Rabta by December 2009. - NEW NATIONAL PAPER: Libya will not submit a new National Paper to the Executive Council (EC) meeting of the OPCW scheduled to begin on June 24. Noting that National Papers are to be submitted at least a month in advance of EC's for review by States Parties, Hesnawy pointed to the fact that the meeting was just ten days away and that there was not sufficient time for review. P/E Chief noted that we had asked since early May that the GOL immediately submit a new National Paper for review. Hesnawy had no response, but said Libya's delegation will instead submit an "official statement" during the Informal Session that would address all points stipulated in ref A non-paper. The informal statement would explain "completely" the reasons for missing the July 29, 2008 conversion deadline and the need for "a correction" to the conversion plan that would eliminate the requirement that a protective sandbag berm be removed. - VISIT BY U.S. TECHNICAL EXPERTS: Hesnawy and his MFA/IO counterpart stressed that the GOL stands ready to facilitate a visit to the Rabta facility by U.S. Embassy officials and/or U.S. technical experts - the U.S. side is "welcome to visit at any time - we have nothing to hide". Such a visit could occur before the upcoming EC meeting or after it. The GOL has already extended invitations through the Italian and U.K. Embassies for their capitals to send teams of technical experts. (Note: The Italian Ambassador and DCM, but not/not Italian technical experts visited Rabta on June 7. A U.K. technical team is notionally scheduled to visit July 6-9, 2008. End note.) Hesnawy stressed that the GOL was willing to accommodate a series of bilateral visits by technical experts, but was not/not willing to facilitate a visit by a combined team (i.e., of U.S. and U.K. experts) out of concern that the visit's agenda could be broadened. TRIPOLI 00000466 002 OF 003 - NEXT STEPS: Hesnawy indicated that he clearly understood that U.S. support for a conversion plan correction to allow retention of a modified protective berm depended on a commitment to transparency and conduct of a site visit to Rabta. He said that the GOL might/might be amenable to submitting a new National Paper at the next EC after the upcoming meeting in late June, indicating that the GOL would premise its decision in part on conversations with Delreps at the June 24-27 EC meeting.
IRANIAN HARASSMENT DURING APRIL 2008 OPCW INSPECTION ALLEGED
4. (C) Referring to the April visit by an OPCW inspection team, Hesnawy complained that an Iranian inspector had raised issues with equipment in Building Number 3 and Building Number 4 that had since 2004 been mutually agreed to have been exclusively commercial in nature. According to Hesnawy, four previous tranches of OPCW inspectors had been informed of the equipment and assured the GOL that the equipment did not need to be declared. Referring to the GOL's decision to vote for a UN Security Council Resolution calling for a third tranche of sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear weapons program, Hesnawy said the Iranian inspector deliberately raised the issue of equipment in the commercial building to harass Libya in retaliation for its UNSC vote. Hesnawy claimed Iranian officials at the OPCW had conceded as much in conversations at The Hague with Libya's representative, Muhammad Gheton. "Libya feels it's being dragged back to 2004", Hesnawy complained, saying previous teams of inspectors should have raised the issue of the equipment earlier if it was indeed a subject of concern.
DESTRUCTION: STATUS OF ITALIAN CONTRACT & PROJECT TIMELINE
5. (C) Regarding ref B reports that the timetable for Libya's destruction program had slipped, Hesnawy conceded that there had been delays; however, he maintained that Libya would nonetheless meet the deadline of the States Parties. The GOL envisions the project in two phases: 1) Repackaging of the agent from existing polyethylene containers (which has resulted in diffusion, vice leakage, of the agent) into improved containers for the 800 km trip from the Ruwagha facility in al-Jufra to the Rabta facility; and 2) actual destruction of the material. Hesnawy said the GOL will rely on Italian company SIPSA Enginerring and Libyan civil contractors to complete the repackaging and destruction work. Contract negotiations with the Italian company had been "completed" and terms were mutually understood by the GOL and SIPSA; however, the contract itself had not yet been formally approved by "all relevant GOL entities", according to Hesnawy. Additional details, such as securing GOL approval to establish requisite bank accounts and authority for letters of credit were also still being worked out.
6. (C) Hesnawy offered the following schedule for the destruction program: - January/February 2009: Repackaging of the agent takes place; agent is stored in Bunker 109 at al-Jufra until transport to Rabta in late 2009/early 2010; - March 2009: Construction completed on destruction building at Rabta facility; - March-October 2009: Destruction equipment installed in destruction building at Rabta facility; - December 2009: Cold and hot tests of destruction equipment at Rabta destruction facility; - Early February 2010: Commissioning of destruction facility at Rabta; - May 1, 2010: 1% of agent destroyed per agreement with OPCW. Hesnawy offered that SIPSA and the GOL estimated that destruction of all of the agent would require only 25 calendar days once destruction commenced at the Rabta facility. He anticipated no difficulty meeting the deadline for destruction of the agent, and predicted that Libya would complete the project well in advance of the deadline.
7. (C) Comment: Animated and at times angry, Hesnawy repeatedly stressed the GOL's annoyance at what it perceives as an "endless" series of questions about details of its conversion and destruction plans. Stressing that dignity was more important than anything in Libya, Hesnawy offered that GOL officials had considered whether it would be better to destroy the Rabta facility altogether rather than allow it to be used as a pretext for criticism of the GOL's intentions and performance TRIPOLI 00000466 003 OF 003 by "hostile international actors". STEVENS