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Cablegate: U.K. Visit to Rabta Chemical Weapons Production Facility

VZCZCXRO6513
OO RUEHTRO
DE RUEHTRO #0574/01 1961550
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 141550Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3694
INFO RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE IMMEDIATE 0081
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0547
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0866
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0453
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4203

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000574

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND ISN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/14/2018
TAGS: PARM PREL CWC OPCW CBW IT UK LY
SUBJECT: U.K. VISIT TO RABTA CHEMICAL WEAPONS PRODUCTION FACILITY

REF: TRIPOLI 466 CLASSIFIED BY: John T. Godfrey, CDA, U.S. Embassy - Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 1. (C) Summary: The U.K. Deputy Head of Mission told us the recent visit by U.K. chemical weapons experts to the Rabta chemical weapons production facility (CWPF) had "greatly reassured" the U.K. that Libya was committed to converting the facility to pharmaceuticals production, meeting the deadline for destroying stocks of chemical weapons agent and dealing with the OPCW in a more transparent way. End summary. 2. (C) A U.K. team comprising Chris Rampling, Clive Rowland, Shailesh Patel and Jim McGilly visited Libya July 6-9. FCO official Chris Rampling gave us a readout of his meeting on July 7 with officials from the MFA's International Organizations (MFA/IO) department and GOL's lead interlocutor on CWC issues, Dr. Ahmed Hesnawy; U.K. Embassy Deputy Head of Mission Mark Matthews subsequently gave us a readout on July 10 of the team's visit to the Rabta facility and their conclusions. The U.K. team stressed that a major objective for their visit was to re-establish contact with Dr. Ahmed Hesnawy and other key GOL interlocutors on CWC issues, with whom they have not had direct contact for some time. MEETING WITH DR. HESNAWY & MFA/IO: LIBYA AGREES MORE TRANSPARENCY NEEDED 3. (C) Rampling led the U.K. team's meeting on July 7 with the MFA's International Organizations (MFA/IO) department and Dr. Ahmed Hesnawy, Libya's lead interlocutor on CWC issues. Rampling stressed the need for greater transparency from the GOL as to the reasons that conversion of the Rabta CWPF from chemical weapons to pharmaceuticals production had been delayed. Rampling said he "suggested, but not explicitly" that Libya consider submitting a new national paper at the next OPCW meeting. Hesnawy blamed Italian company PharmaChem, with which it has contracted for conversion-related work, for delays in conversion work. He agreed that greater transparency could help alleviate concerns about Libya's activities, and suggested Libya would submit a new national paper. 4. (C) Rampling also urged the GOL to be more transparent about the contract with Italian firm SIPSA Engineering for destruction of chemical agent at Rabta. Rampling said Hesnawy bristled when asked whether the destruction contract with SIPSA Engineering contract had actually been signed. Complaining that the Italian Embassy in Tripoli had called regularly - "they are pushing us too hard on this" - to ask whether the contract had been signed, Hesnawy stressed that Libya would "sign when we're ready to sign, and not before". As reported reftel, Hesnawy told us in June that contract negotiations with SIPSA had been completed and terms were mutually understood; however, the contract itself had not yet been formally approved by all relevant GOL entities. (Note: Rampling told us that despite the fact that Italian officials in Rome and at the OPCW deny that Italy's government has played a direct role in the SIPSA contract, Italian Embassy officials in Tripoli freely admitted that they were actively involved in trying to get the contract finalized and signed. End note.) Hesnawy expressed confidence that Libya would "easily meet" the deadline for destruction of its chemical agent. RABTA VISIT: U.K. TEAM "GREATLY REASSURED" 5. (C) U.K. DHM Mark Matthews told us the U.K. team was "greatly reassured" by its visit to the Rabta CWPF on July 8 that the GOL had been transparent about its conversion and destruction activities. GOL officials - Hesnawy accompanied the team on its visit - were "very cooperative". The U.K. team had full access to the Rabta CWPF and was able to take photographs during their five-plus hour visit. The team reported that "significant" construction and conversion work had been performed at the former CWPF. The U.K. team had "no concerns" about Libya's proposal to retain the sandbag-covered enclosure berm that the original conversion plan envisioned removing. GOL interlocutors reiterated earlier arguments that retention of the berm would help preclude damage to the production facility's equipment that could occur during removal and, more importantly, help product the facility from sand storms prevalent in the area. 6. (C) The U.K. team was not/not allowed to visit the chemical weapons destruction facility. Hesnawy said only site preparation work was underway there, and that there was nothing of substance to see. Hesnawy told the U.K. team that some equipment for the destruction facility would be obtained locally, with some to be brought in from abroad, including destruction monitoring equipment that may/may be purchased from a U.K. company. Hesnawy may/may travel to the U.K. in October to meet with representatives of the U.K. company; the U.K.'s Ministry of Defense may/may provide training on use of the destruction monitoring equipment. Rampling told us on July 7 TRIPOLI 00000574 002 OF 002 that he intended to pull Hesnawy aside to raise the issue of establishing a system to identify and track proliferation sensitive production equipment; however, Matthews told us in his readout that Rampling had ultimately not/not raised the issue. 7. (C) Separately, MFA/IO official Adel Ben Issa told us on July 14 that the request for the U.S. team of CWC experts to visit Libya July 20-24 had been forwarded to MFA Secretary for European Affairs Abdulati Obeidi, Libya's lead interlocutor for Tri-lateral Steering Coordinating Committee (TSCC) issues. (Note: Obeidi has been in Paris in connection with the Union for the Mediterranean event recently held there, and just returned to Tripoli. End note.) Ben Issa said all the indications were positive that the U.S. team's visit would be approved, and that he expected to receive official permission for the visit from Obeidi within a day or so. GODFREY

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