Cablegate: Chemical Weapons Convention (Cwc): Rabta

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

This is CWC-89-04.


1. (SBU) In the aftermath of EC-37, delegation has been
working closely with UK, Italy, and Libya, to facilitate and
garner support for Libya's proposed change to the
Verification Annex of the CWC, to enable the conversion of
its former CW production facility at Rabta. In particular
the delegations noted have been attempting to secure
co-sponsors for the proposal, an effort that achieved some
degree of success with 12 SPs co-sponsoring. As indicated
below, a number of others have become co-sponsors since.

2. (SBU) Germany and France continue to express disagreement
with the approach taken by the US, UK, Italy, and Libya,
albeit in a rather passive manner. It remains unclear the
depth of their opposition and whether they would actually
break with consensus when the issue comes before the next
session of the Council.

3. (SBU) Based on conversations with the OPCW legal advisor,
delegation believes the OPCW will show solid support for the
proposed technical change. We have been informed that a
paper is already in the works that will provide a legal case
supporting the proposal. Delegation believes this document
will be of critical importance in reassuring delegations who
pay enough attention to these matters to actually care, but
who lack the resources and/or inclination to conduct a legal
analysis themselves.


4. (SBU) On Tuesday, 13 July, the delegation of Libya
convened a meeting at the OPCW, the purpose of which was to
energize select delegations to co-sponsor the Libyan proposal
for a technical change to Article V of paragraph 72 of the
Verification Annex of the CWC. The meeting was attended by
US, UK, Italy, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, South
Africa, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic,
Japan, Peru, Korea, and Serbia-Montenegro. Invited but not
present were Panama, Netherlands and Greece, while Bulgaria
and Serbia-Montenegro attended at their own initiative,
having not been on the initial list of invitees.

Commentary from each of the delegations, where applicable, is
as follows:

-- Sudan: Expects veterans of the OPCW, and the TS, to "help
Libya find its way" now that it is in the OPCW. Supports
this request and the onus is on all of us to find a way to
allow the conversion to go forward. No instructions yet, but
expect to be able to co-sponsor as soon as tomorrow (Note:
Sudan has now in fact joined the list of co-sponsors. End

-- Tunisia: Tunisian delegate was the most effective speaker
in the meeting. She said Tunisia's view is very simple; they
are looking at the aim and purpose of this change. While it
is good to have support from others like the US to address
the AIDS and other disease issues on the African continent,
ultimately African countries must take action themselves.
Tunisia does not want to see this issue become highly
politicized and thus blocked. They hope for consensus.
Libya is still new to the OPCW and thus does not know the
legal and political intricacies of the OPCW, that is why the
US, UK, Italy and others have been helping, and Tunisia
welcomes this. But there needs to be more support in the
form of co-sponsors. All African countries would be grateful
for such support.

-- Morocco: Co-sponsors this initiative and enjoins others
to do likewise.

-- Algeria: Full support and have already co-sponsored.
Must work to convince others, especially in Africa, to
support also. This is a humanitarian issue on which Africa
should find unanimity.

-- South Africa: Co-sponsor and support this initiative.

-- Kuwait: Support the initiative, but do not have
instructions. Anticipate having them in 3-4 days (Note: A
week later Kuwait still does not apparently have
authorization to co-sponsor, and has been notably
unresponsive to attempts by the UK delegation to contact them
to enlist Kuwaiti support. End Note.)

-- Saudi Arabia: Awaiting instructions, but anticipates
being able to co-sponsor as soon as tomorrow (Note: Despite
this comment at the meeting, Saudi Arabia has still not
co-sponsored the proposal).

-- Japan: Supports the idea of making a change to permit
conversion of Rabta, but have not received final
instructions. Is still looking at political/legal
implications of proposal. Informally, UK and US lobbied hard
for support of this particular change and against France. UK
is being very candid in portraying French dissent as
unfounded and politically motivated. Japan closed its
commentary by noting that if SPs choose to pursue this
change, obtaining consensus would be important (Note: In the
days following the meeting, Japan indicated it will not
co-sponsor the Libyan proposal, and even its support for the
proposal now seems lackluster. Delegation believes Japan has
no particular concern over the proposal itself, but is
waiting for the politics to play themselves out before
supporting any particular course of action. End note.).

-- Korea: No formal instructions, but asked two (unhelpful)
"clarifying" questions:

1) Is it accurate to say in the last sentence that all
other provisions continue to apply? Wouldn't para 66 and
69, for example, continue to apply. UK pointed out that para
66, and others, were in fact being changed and that the text
said that "except for". Para 69 would continue to apply.
After the meeting, Korea approached delegation and delegation
assured him that we, UK and Italy, had done a thorough legal
analysis and that it was literally true that all other
provisions would continue to apply. To say simply, as he was
proposing, that "other" (sans "all") provisions apply, might
beg questions about which do and which do not continue to
apply. Korea seemed to accept this.

2) Shouldn't we use the phrase "earliest practicable"
in reference to the EC setting a deadline for submission of a
request to convert? Delegation explained that the phrase
earliest practicable was both accurate and useful in the
second instance (of CSP action) since technical and
operational factors would have to be taken into account to
determine how quickly an SP could effect a conversion.
However, in the case of the EC setting a date for submission
of a request, the same clause would actual have the opposite
effect by possibly begging arguments about what constitutes
"earliest practicable" in this context. Again, Korea seemed
to accept the point.

-- Czech Republic: is reviewing the document and considering
it positively, but no final instructions.

-- Ukraine: Made no comment during the meeting, nor since.

-- Bulgaria: Is interested in the subject, but only asked one
clarifying point about when Libya's actual extension request
would be submitted.

-- Serbia-Montenegro: Does not oppose the initiative, but
have no instructions yet.

5. (SBU) In addition, Yemen and Cameroon provided Libya
with letters of co-sponsorship prior to the meeting.


6. (SBU) Subsequently, on Friday 16 July, Libyan Ambassador
Zakia Abdussalam M. Sahli presented Libya's request for a
technical change to the Director General. Included in the
package (all faxed to State AC/CB on Friday, 16 July) were
Ambassador Sahli's letter containing the request for a
technical change, an Annex containing the actual text of the
proposed change, an Annex providing additional information
about the proposal, an Annex listing co-sponsors, and finally
letters from States Parties that had co-sponsored prior to
the formal request being made. The co-sponsoring SPs at the
time of the submission were Algeria, United States, United
Kingdom, Cameroon, Eritrea, Italy, Kenya, Morocco, South
Africa, Tunisia, Yemen, and Sudan.

7. (SBU) Since the formal submission, Greece has indicated
it will co-sponsor the proposal, and the delegation has been
advised by Korea that it anticipates providing its letter of
co-sponsorship sometime during the week of 19 July.

8. (SBU) Delegation is aware that the Libyan Ambassador is
lobbying hard on a bilateral basis, to include working on
Iran, which we're told supports the idea but is not in a
position to co-sponsor yet. Some mention has also been made
about her meeting with the Bulgarians, which could represent
an interesting turn of events. Czech Republic speculated to
the delegation that Bulgaria's interest and desire to attend
the 13 July meeting stems from its interest in discussing
Rabta, but also the fate of Bulgarian medical personnel who
are apparently under a death sentence in Libya for allegedly
deliberately spreading HIV.

9. (SBU) While co-sponsorship to date has been satisfactory,
delegation believes that follow-up effort with some
delegations may yet prove fruitful. In particular,
delegation intends to lobby Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and
possibly Netherlands, to co-sponsor. In addition, it has
become clear that UK also continues to actively court other
delegations, notably Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.


10. (SBU) UK has informed delegation that Germany and France
continue to disdain the proposal, though delegation does not
believe they have taken any specific action locally other
than to express disagreement. Also via the UK delegation,
Germany has stated, purely informally and not/not as an
expression of a change in Germany's position, that its
preference would be to see Rabta simply destroyed rather than
converted. What's more, UK has said German resistance to the
proposal is strong in Berlin, and that Germany shares
France's objections to the proposal. It therefore appears
that the more moderate tone Germany struck in our meetings
may be hardening.

11. (SBU) Delegation also recalls that on the margins of the
EC session, Germany delegate Peter Beerwerth stated that
Rabta represented a dilemma for German politicians, because
of past "illegal" transfers of equipment to Libya, and the
attendant political fallout. Specifically, Germany would
need to see the actual Libyan conversion plan before agreeing
to any course of action. Delegation therefore recommends
conveying, with Libya's concurrence of course, a copy of the
conversion plan to Germany at the earliest possible date.


12. (SBU) On Wednesday, 21 July, del rep had a lengthy
discussion with the OPCW legal advisor, Santiago Onate on,
among other things, the Rabta conversion request. During the
conversation it became clear that both Onate and the OPCW
Director General are very favorably disposed to the Libyan
proposal for a technical change, and delegation expects
senior OPCW leadership will continue to be a positive force
in this process. Onate stated he was in the process of
developing a legal paper supporting the proposition that the
change being sought in the Libyan proposal was indeed
"technical", and did not require an Amendment to the
Convention. In various conversations Onate had become aware
that some delegations were questioning whether a change of
this nature could honestly be considered "technical". The TS
position is that it is indeed and Onate's charter therefore
is to make the legal case to support that position. Onate
expected that at least some elements of his legal paper would
be included in the DG's opinion when it is eventually
proffered. Del rep assured Onate we viewed this as a
positive course of action and agree that making the legal
case would be an important element of our future success.
The legal view of the TS was likely to carry a great deal of
credence with delegations that lack either the resources or
the inclination to conduct their own legal analysis, but who
nevertheless want assurance that they are subscribing to a
"legitimate" course of action.

13. (SBU) In the course of the conversation, Onate expressed
his belief that there would be a lot of value added in
approaching GRULAC countries, who would have a natural
affinity for this kind of action (because of the humanitarian
element) but who may not understand the issues. Del rep
concurred that while there was widespread "support" for the
initiative, it was support borne, in many cases, of
ideological affection rather than real understanding of what
was being proposed. If another SP seriously called into
question the validity of the approach, such supporters might
waiver. All that would need to happen to see the process
hamstrung would be for them to request more time to consider
the proposal. Del rep noted that in that sense, perhaps more
time should be spent solidifying and shoring up the support
of those who have already expressed their support, but
expressed hesitation at the idea of the US or UK or Italy
approaching GRULAC, as this was a Libyan proposal and the
optics of that could be a bit dubious. On the other hand,
Libya had demonstrated that it did not have, at least not
here in The Hague, the depth of understanding of the issues
and the proposal, to educate others and convince them that
this is a supportable proposal. Onate responded that perhaps
the TS could fill the expertise void created by the absence
of the three main co-sponsors. A presentation by, for
example, Mr. Trentadue, who is Argentine, and himself, would
be particularly well received. He suggested arranging a
meeting of GRULAC for Libya to make a presentation to, again
supported by the TS. As a final observation on this aspect
of the issue, Onate stated his belief that the Guatemalan
Ambassador would also be an excellent advocate with GRULAC
countries. He knows OPCW business and enjoys a very good

14. (SBU) Onate indicated he had heard no direct feedback
from either France or Germany, though he was familiar with
their positions on the proposal. He gave no indication that
he or the DG were particularly concerned about the prospect
of facing criticism from France or Germany over support for
this initiative. In a surprising aside, however, he
indicated that Charge de Cabinet Rafael Grossi had spoken to
French delegate Sophie Moal-Makame the day before (20 July)
and had subsequently stated, apparently with some degree of
confidence, that the French "would come around". Onate could
not elaborate on the specifics of the conversation or the
cause for Grossi's optimism.

15. (U) Kellogg sends.


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