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Cablegate: (C) Chirac Visit to Libya Modestly Successful, but Not

O 161036Z DEC 04
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C O N F I D E N T I A L TRIPOLI 000031


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/16/2014
TAGS: PREL PTER FR LY VE
SUBJECT: (C) CHIRAC VISIT TO LIBYA MODESTLY SUCCESSFUL, BUT NOT
HAPPY

REF: PARIS 8864

CLASSIFIED BY: Gregory L. Berry, Chief of Mission, U.S. Liaison
Office, Tripoli, Libya.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (C) Summary: French Embassy DCM Maurice Dabdoush (please
protect) December 15 confirmed rumors circulating around Tripoli
that Jacques Chirac's November 24-25 visit to Libya was not a
happy experience. While the French President accomplished his
most important goal - that of simply showing up here, as his UK,
Spanish, Italian, and German counterparts have done in the past
year - there were no major breakthroughs in foreign policy or
business contracts. Libyan "game-playing", including a surprise
welcome ceremony in front of Qadhafi's bombed-out house from the
1986 raids and trying to invite Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
along to the state dinner, irritated Chirac and cost a certain
amount of good-will, Dabdoush said. End summary.

The Rumors
-----------------

2. (C) Dabdoush and newly-arrived French Ambassador to Libya
both departed Libya within hours of Chirac. By then Tripoli was
abuzz with rumors that the visit had gone poorly. The take of
many here, including the British embassy, was that Chirac's
efforts to "ingratiate" himself with the Libyans after the
coolness of recent years and the ill grace with which the UTA
dispute was resolved had failed. The diplomatic community and
the media interpreted the fact that Chirac's welcoming ceremony
was held at Qadhafi's former house in the Bab al-Azizia
barracks, which suffered a direct hit in the U.S. 1986 bombing
and is now a shrine to the 1986 "martyrs of imperial
aggression", as a slap in the face to the U.S. by both the
Libyans and French. Many were also scratching their heads over
the November 24 state dinner, which the Libyans advertised as a
double bill in honor of both Chirac and Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez, who was also in town, but which only Chirac
attended.

The Irritations
-------------------

3. (C) When we finally caught up with Dabdoush December 15, he
confirmed that neither he nor his ambassador had been recalled,
as some here had speculated, but instead had returned to France
to recuperate from the stress of the visit. From the GOF's
standpoint, the visit was a moderate success, Dabdoush said;
Chirac can now say he's visited Libya, as so many of his
European counterparts have done recently, and spent quality time
with Qadhafi, as reported reftel. However, disorganization and
constant Libyan "game-playing" with the schedule irritated
Chirac and cast a pall over the visit. Notable irritations
included:

-- Qadhafi gave an interview to Le Figaro the day before
Chirac's arrival, in which he criticized Libyan actions in Cote
d'Ivoire, infuriating Chirac.

-- On the morning of Chirac's arrival, Libyan Protocol invited
diplomatic heads of mission to a state dinner in honor of both
Chirac and Chavez. This was news to the Chirac's advance party,
who passed it the President before his departure. Chirac
categorically refused, stating that he would have a quiet dinner
with the Ambassador "over a bottle of wine" in that case (note:
alcohol is illegal in Libya). The Libyans disinvited Chavez,
but Dabdoush told us that Chavez's security guards later got
into a shoving match with some French ministers in the elevator
of the Mehari Hotel, where the dinner took place.

-- Chirac had no intention of visiting the 1986 bombed-out
house, according to Dabdoush. The French advance team had
agreed that the welcoming ceremony would take place in the Bab
al-Azizia barracks so that Qadhafi would attend, but the
ceremony was supposed to happen in another part of the barracks,
Dabdoush asserted, showing us the initial site scenario diagrams
to illustrate his point. Chirac felt ambushed, and made his
displeasure felt by his icy demeanor during the ceremony and his
subsequent refusal to put an inscription in the guest book,
where other heads of state, mostly African, have gone on for
pages about the injustice done to the Libyans in 1986.

-- The Libyans ambushed Chirac again on November 24 by trying to
get him to lay a wreath at a monument for victims of 1986;
Chirac refused.

What Was Accomplished
-------------------------------------

4. (C) Besides actually showing up, not much, according to
Dabdoush; the five cooperation agreements signed during the
visit were merely window dressing, and no significant business
contracts were concluded. Although Qadhafi made his
now-standard plea for military sales, the GOF will respond with
caution, Dabdoush predicted; while the EU arms embargo has been
lifted, certain sales are still tightly controlled under the
so-called "toolbox" arrangement. France will stick to these
prohibitions. Notably, the subject of Abdullah Sanoussi did not
come up; Dabdoush said that the Libyans "know better now" than
to press for clemency, which he believes Chirac is not inclined
to give in any case. (Note: Sanousi was convicted to life in
prison in abstentia for the UTA bombing; the French were enraged
when Qadhafi rehabilitated him, after years spent under house
arrest, and made him chief of military intelligence.) Dabdoush
thought the Libyans have done a "fair" job in keeping Sanoussi
out of the public eye, as they have requested.

Chirac and Qadhafi
----------------------------

5. (C) Chirac and Qadhafi do not enjoy warm relations, Dabdoush
said. They first met in 1976; to Dabdoush's knowledge, the last
time they saw each other was during the Five Plus Five Meeting
in 2003 in Tunis, when Chirac was irritated (again) after
Qadhafi fell asleep during Chirac's speech.

Comment
--------------

6. (C) Chirac's visit brought to mind, as so often here, a
phrase that has become almost a technical term in the diplomatic
corp: Libya's unmatched "wackiness factor." The Canadians are
awaiting PM Martin's visit with some trepidation, especially
after Saif al-Islam demanded an apology for Canada's
participation in international sanctions on Libya in the 1980s
and '90s. End comment.

BERRY


NNNN

O 161036Z DEC 04
FM USLO TRIPOLI
TO AMEMBASSY PARIS IMMEDIATE
SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0037
INFO AMEMBASSY ALGIERS IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY CAIRO IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY CARACAS IMMEDIATE
EU MEMBER STATES
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