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Cablegate: Libya Interested in U.S. Weapons, More Ambivalent On Other Military Cooperation

VZCZCXRO7958
OO RUEHTRO
DE RUEHTRO #0992 3661422
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O P 311422Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4282
INFO RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1363
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0720
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0858
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0801
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0976
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0663
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4805

S E C R E T TRIPOLI 000992

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG, LONDON FOR TSOU, PARIS FOR WALLER, U.S.
AFRICAN COMMAND FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2018
TAGS: MARR MASS PREL PGOV PINR LY
SUBJECT: LIBYA INTERESTED IN U.S. WEAPONS, MORE AMBIVALENT ON OTHER MILITARY COOPERATION

REF: A) TRIPOLI 870, B) TRIPOLI 481 CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy - Tripoli, U.S. Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (S/NF) MFA Secretary for the Americas Ahmed Fituri told A/DCM on December 23 that Muammar al-Qadhafi's much-publicized discussions about possible weapons purchases during his recent visit to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine (ref A) were "largely for show". Citing a conversation with National Security Adviser Muatassim al-Qadhafi, son of Muammar al-Qadhafi, on December 22, Fituri said Muatassim and senior Libyan MOD and security officials (NFI) supported purchasing more military equipment from the U.S. and (to a lesser extent) European suppliers like the U.K. and France. (Note: Muatassim traveled to Moscow in advance of his father's visit and reportedly held discussions with Russian officials about security cooperation and defense procurement possibilities. End note.) Libyan MOD and security officials intended to shift away from purchasing military equipment from Russia and former Soviet republics because U.S. military hardware was seen as being technically superior and because they believed the recently implemented U.S.-Libya claims compensation agreement had paved the way for purchasing lethal weapons from the U.S. in the near future. Muatassim told Fituri the public discussion of large-scale weapons purchases before and during al-Qadhafi's October visit to Moscow, Minsk and Kiev were intended to "prompt competition for Libya's military business". (Note: Al-Qadhafi gave similar remarks to media during his stop in Kiev. End note.)

2. (C) Fituri said that while Muatassim and senior Libyan MOD and security officials agreed that they would prefer to purchase U.S. equipment, the picture was less clear regarding training and cooperation. According to Fituri, Muatassim and his brother, senior regime figure Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, support broader military cooperation with the U.S.; however, Muammar al-Qadhafi expressed reservations to Muatassim in mid-November about U.S.-Libya military-to-military cooperation that could lead to having large numbers of U.S. advisers and trainers present in Libya. He was keen that U.S. military personnel not be seen in uniform in Libya, a prospect with which he was particularly concerned given that the "evacuation" of U.S. and U.K. military bases (the Wheelus and el-Adem airbases, respectively) in 1970 was viewed as a key accomplishment of the revolution. Muatassim's understanding was that he had a mandate to explore further military-to-military cooperation via the proposed U.S.-Libya Military-Military Memorandum of Understanding; however, his father intended to closely monitor each step of expanded U.S.-Libya military-to-military engagement.

3. (S/NF) Comment: Fituri's account is consistent with what we have heard previously about the fact that military engagement with the U.S. is a particularly sensitive subject for Muammar al-Qadhafi and other senior Libyan officials. As reported ref B, a senior MFA interlocutor told us on the margins of meetings with representatives of DOD and Lockheed-Martin to discuss the disposition of eight C-130H's purchased by Libya in the 1970's and stranded in Marietta, Georgia that al-Qadhafi had personally met with Libya's C-130 team before the meeting to discuss Libya's approach. Al-Qadhafi was adamant that any agreement to resolve the matter of the C-130H's or for future weapons purchases be contingent on securing USG guarantees that export licenses would be granted for those items, and was concerned that Libya not be "embarrassed by the U.S.". Fituri's readout of Muatassim's remarks suggests that expansion of U.S.-Libya military-to-military ties will be carefully calibrated from the Libyan side. Given al-Qadhafi's well-known predilection for changing his mind, it is likely to be fitful. End comment. CRETZ

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