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Cablegate: Embassy's Engagement with the Nigerian Media

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 000670

SIPDIS


STATE FOR AF/W AND AF/PD
LAGOS FOR PAS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO KDEM PREL NI
SUBJECT: EMBASSY'S ENGAGEMENT WITH THE NIGERIAN MEDIA
ON IRAQ


REFTEL: STATE 81949


1. Summary. Ambassador Jeter and Mission PAS staff
have worked assiduously to ensure broad coverage
within the Nigerian media of USG policy positions on
Iraq. Our media strategy has included placement of an
op-ed that addressed many Nigerian misperceptions
regarding U.S. military intervention in Iraq, one-on-
one television and print interviews, and press
roundtables both in Lagos and Abuja. Much of the
press attention has focused on the erroneous
statements by GON officials linking the Nigerian
Government's position on Iraq to the recent suspension
of FY-03 USG military assistance to Nigeria.
Clarification on this matter, through press releases
and the Ambassador's statements, has dramatically
lessened media attention to this non-issue. End
Summary.


Ambassador's Op-Ed
------------------


2. To date, eight papers have printed Ambassador
Jeter's op-ed stating the U.S. case for military
intervention in Iraq. The op-ed emphasized that the
U.S. is not at war against Islam or for control of
Iraqi oil, two misperceptions receiving steady media
play in Nigeria. The op-ed stressed that Saddam
Hussein's regime had used weapons of mass destruction
in the past against his own people and neighbors, had
failed to account for them through the UN inspection
process, and had links to terrorists, making Iraq a
potential menace both to the U.S. and the world. As
reported in the Mission's April 4 daily task force
report, Iraqi diplomat Firah Saleh responded to the
op-ed by claiming that Americans could not teach Iraq
about democracy. Rather than defending the Iraqi
regime, most of Saleh's rebuttal was a critique of
U.S. support for Israel and Israeli policy towards the
Palestinians.


Abuja Press Event on March 25
-----------------------------


3. On March 25, Ambassador Jeter met Abuja-based
editors and journalists on the Iraqi conflict
following a telepress conference with African Affairs
Bureau Assistant Secretary Kansteiner. The primary
issue raised by reporters was the withdrawal of
military assistance to Nigeria and its relationship to
the GON position on Iraq. The Ambassador explained
the two issues were not linked. He told the
journalists that he reiterated to the Minister of
State for Foreign Affairs that these issues were
absolutely and categorically not connected. The Voice
of Germany's Hausa Service reporter asked if the U.S.
entered Iraq to control its oil so that the U.S. could
flood the world market and force down oil prices. The
Ambassador said the war with Iraq was not about oil;
nor was it a war against a people, religion or
country; rather, it was a war against a very, very bad
regime. He added that in the past twelve years, Iraq
had flouted numerous UN resolutions by refusing to
disarm, noting that the U.S. and its allies believe
the present Iraqi regime is a danger to international
peace and a threat to U.S. national security. The
Ambassador said there is sufficient evidence that the
regime has WMD and its leadership is linked to
terrorist organizations.


4. Ishaq Modibbo Kawo, the editor of the northern
independent "Daily Trust" newspaper, asked why the
U.S. has not registered similar concerns about
Israel's refusal to comply with UN resolutions. The
Ambassador responded that the U.S. is working very
hard with countries in the Middle East as well as
through the Quartet to bring peace and a just
settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli issue. He said
President Bush is fully committed to a just settlement
in the Middle East, including a viable, independent
Palestinian state. The News Agency of Nigeria
reporter wanted to know if the U.S. government had
asked Nigeria to expel Iraqi diplomats from Nigeria.
The Ambassador said if such a discussion had taken
place, it was between the two governments and he would
not comment on bilateral diplomatic discussions with
the media.


The Sunday Show on March 30
---------------------------


5. On March 30, Ambassador Jeter appeared on the
Sunday Show, a popular Lagos-based Sunday afternoon
talk show whose broadcast audience is confined to
southwestern Nigeria. In a wide-ranging conversation,
the Ambassador focused on the broad bilateral
relationship with Nigeria, USG assistance efforts, and
the importance of the upcoming elections. He
explained the misperception over linkage between the
suspension of military assistance and Nigeria's
position on the Iraq war. Phone-in callers raised
visa questions, concerns over travel to the U.S. while
the war with Iraq is underway, and a request to help
the Nigerian population attain the same level of
national patriotism as seen in the United States. One
caller provided unqualified support for President Bush
and military intervention in Iraq.


March 31 Meeting with the Nigerian Editors Guild
--------------------------------------------- ---


6. Chaired by Nigerian Guild of Editors President
Remi Oyo, 17 senior print and broadcast editors held a
roundtable discussion with the Ambassador on March 31.
The journalists engaged the Ambassador for two and a
half hours on the war in Iraq, US-Nigerian relations
and the upcoming Nigerian elections. Ambassador Jeter
gave detailed responses to all queries, even as
questions invariably returned to Iraq and the alleged
linked suspension of certain military assistance to
Nigeria.


7. On questions relating to the widely reported
linkage of U.S. military aid and Nigeria's antiwar
stance regarding Iraq, Ambassador Jeter explained that
the suspension was based on allegations of human
rights abuses by soldiers in Benue State in 2001. He
said any suggested linkage between the military
assistance and Iraqi issues was false. Regarding
bilateral relations, Ambassador Jeter said Nigeria and
the U.S. have enjoyed excellent relations since the
coming of the civilian government in 1999. He backed
up his point with the example of President Obasanjo's
visits to the U.S.: Obasanjo was the first African
leader invited by President Bush for an official visit
to Washington and he was also the first African leader
invited to the U.S. after 9/11. These visits
symbolized a special relationship, he said.


8. Answering questions on the justification of the
U.S. strike in Iraq, Ambassador Jeter said Saddam
Hussein had violated 16 U.N. resolutions over the past
12 years. He said all attempts, including sanctions,
diplomacy and limited military actions, had failed to
get Hussein to abide by the will of the international
community. The Ambassador added that the coalition
forces are trying to be selective in their strikes to
avoid civilian casualties.


9. Specifically on Nigeria, Jeter posited that the
country has made some significant progress since the
coming of civilian rule in 1999, adding that Nigerians
need to be more patient. He noted that the coming
election will be a crucial and critical test for
Nigeria and that the country cannot afford to fail.
Failure would have dire consequences for Nigeria, West
Africa, and the entire African continent, he said.


TELL Magazine Juxtaposes Interviews with Jeter and
Iraqi Ambassador
--------------------------------------------- ---------
10. Weekly news magazine TELL, in its March 31 -
April 7 edition, published separate interviews with
Ambassador Jeter and Iraqi Ambassador to Nigeria Sabah
Omran. Omran accused the U.S. of wanting to control
Iraqi oil and protect the Israeli occupation of
Palestine. He denied that his country had been
uncooperative with UN inspections over the past 12
years, and that neighboring countries supported the
removal of Saddam Hussein. In his interview,
Ambassador Jeter dismissed any USG motivation to
control Iraqi oil and voiced USG support for a Middle
East peace process that satisfies Israeli and
Palestinian objectives for peaceful co-existence. He
once again clarified the lack of any linkage between
the suspension of USG military assistance under the
IMET and FMF programs and the GON position on Iraq.


Comment
-------


11. This comprehensive media schedule during the last
week of March succeeded in educating the Nigerian
media and public on the suspension of U.S. military
assistance and the absence of any linkage to Nigeria's
position on the war with Iraq. In the aftermath of
his clarification to the press as well as the Embassy
press statement on the issue, little media attention
to the story has ensued - what little that has
appeared consists of reader reaction to the
Ambassador's remarks. During the first week of April,
the Mission issued a detailed press release on the
arrival of two Balsam-class coastal vessels, donated
by the USG to the Nigerian Navy. Nigerian media
coverage of the boats' arrival in Lagos on the heels
of the Embassy's clarification on the suspension of
military assistance has assisted Mission efforts to
close the door on further allegations of any linkage
between the suspension and the GON's position on Iraq.


12. On Iraq, the Nigerian media has handled the issue
in varying fashion: most papers provide balanced,
factual reporting, a few others are negatively biased,
while others (in typical Nigerian fashion) are
interested in focusing on topical, but sensationalist
aspects of the war - Iraqi casualties, anti-war
protests around the world, the future of the UN, and
the impact of the war on oil prices. Post appreciates
Washington PD materials, and will continue to seek
broad placement in the Nigerian media.


JETER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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