Cablegate: Vietnam and Iraq

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







E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: Hanoi 2240

1. (U) Summary: Vietnamese Ambassador to Iraq (resident in
Amman for the past six months and now sitting back in Hanoi)
Nguyen Quang Khai is planning to return to Baghdad at Prime
Minister Phan Van Khai's request on September 13 for a
meeting at the Iraqi foreign trade ministry. Ambassador
Khai intends to discuss the shipment to Iraq of 15,000 tons
of Vietnamese tea (worth about USD20 million, he noted)
currently languishing in warehouses in Vietnam, as well as
future contracts to deliver Vietnamese rice. Additionally,
MFA officials discussed two Iraqi-Vietnamese joint-venture
companies in Vietnam, a planned USD500,000 contribution in
kind by Vietnam to Iraq, support for U.S. troops in Iraq,
and the closure of the Iraqi Embassy in Hanoi. Septel will
address these and other agricultural issues and provide some
action requests. End summary.


2. (U) At a luncheon hosted by Ambassador Khai and including
MFA West Asia-Africa Director Ha Huy Thong, US-Vietnam
Section chief Tran Thi Bich Van, Pol/C, and poloff, Khai
told Ambassador that, at the request of Prime Minister Pham
Van Khai (reftel), he was headed back to Amman shortly and
would make the drive from Jordan to Baghdad September 13.
He noted that he would be accompanied by the Director
General of Vinatea (Vietnamese state-owned enterprise
producing tea) and a representative of PetroVietnam. Khai
said the PetroVietnam representative was going on the
invitation of Thamir Ghasban, representative of the Iraqi
Oil Ministry, to discuss oil field development contracts
that Vietnam and Iraq had signed before the war. Khai and
the Vinatea representative would discuss the terms of a
previously arranged 15,000-ton shipment of Vietnamese tea
bound for Iraq under the Oil-for-Food program. Khai said
Vietnamese exports of rice valued at USD 500 million
annually were more important overall, but the tea was
perishable and needed to be shipped immediately. Khai said
he had fixed an appointment with "Susan Hamrock" at the
Iraqi "Ministry of Trade."

3. (U) Khai clarified that reftel delegation to Baghdad to
be led by Nguyen Van Du was separate; its focus will be on
re-opening a diplomatic presence (which he labeled a
"liaison office") in Baghdad quickly, in light of important
commercial and other interests. He added that Du had been
and will be his DCM at the mission in Baghdad. Ambassador
noted continuing security concerns and urged Vietnam to
think more about humanitarian assistance aimed at the
redevelopment of Iraq, rather than a narrow focus on
Vietnam's own commercial interests. "Iraq is an
international charity case," the Ambassador stressed, "not a
commercial opportunity." Khai claimed a number of other
countries had already sent diplomats to Baghdad to resume a
presence, including India, Sri Lanka, Turkey, China, and the
Vatican. He added that he did not believe there were any
immigration or visa restrictions; he said crossing the
border and driving the 1,000 kilometers from Amman to
Baghdad posed no special problem -- except boredom and
danger. Embassy provided him with information about website
links regarding current regulations.


4. (U) According to Khai and Thong, two Vietnamese-Iraqi
joint ventures in Vietnam set up with the old Iraqi regime
are still underway and have been blessed by CPA authorities.
They claimed Iraq's contributions stemmed from reductions in
Vietnam's debt balance with Iraq. One joint venture is a
tea company called Phu Da in Phu Tho province, and another a
rice processing plant in Can Tho (septel). Khai stated that
rice from the plant would be sent to Iraq and proceeds from
the sale also used to pay down Vietnam's debt to Iraq, under
a plan "approved two months ago by Robin Raphel in Baghdad."


5. (U) The diplomats noted that Vietnam was exploring with
UN agencies a contribution-in-kind worth USD 500,000 to
Iraq, most likely rice but also potentially including tea,
milk, and other commodities. They noted no final decision
had been made on the composition of this aid by the GVN or
UN authorities. Ambassador urged close coordination with
WFP, the CPA, and other relevant authorities.

6. (U) When asked about prospects for peace in Iraq, Khai
(who is on his fourth tour there, having served a total of
14 years) admitted that "it will take a long time." He
expressed a lack of information and understanding about who
was behind recent bombings in Najaf and at the UN
headquarters. He expressed support for the continued
presence of U.S. troops, without which "there would be
chaos." He welcomed the appointment on September 2 of about
35 Iraqi ministers-equivalent to handle trade, diplomatic,
and other affairs, and said that he looked forward to
working with them once he returned to Baghdad (while
admitting he did not know to whom he would be accredited).

7. (U) Khai and Thong confirmed that the former Iraqi
mission had informed the MFA by letter that it was closing
and that its diplomats would leave, although they could only
verify that the previous Ambassador-designate (who did not
get to present his credentials before the outset of the war)
had left. Khai stressed that the Iraq chancery remained
closed, under the supervision of the Diplomatic Services
Bureau, which had also retaken possession of a residence
newly restored for the Ambassador-designate. They claimed
that Iraqi diplomatic assets in Vietnam had always been
minimal, given that most of the costs of utilities, rent,
etc., were similarly deducted from Vietnam's debt to Iraq.

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