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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Position On Virgin

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

230738Z Dec 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002121

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/PD-ZABRISKIE, Epstein-AF/W,
DeMars/Faux-Gable-EB/TRA/AN

LAGOS FOR PAS, ECON

DOT FOR OIA, ALSO FAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO EAIR SCUL OIIP PREL NI
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S. POSITION ON VIRGIN
NIGERIA AIRWAYS CRITICIZED


1. Summary: On December 16, PAS Abuja kicked off
its Thursday media briefings with Embassy Econ
Counselor Joseph Gregoire addressing about half a
dozen media reps on the USG position on Virgin
Nigeria Airways. Gregoire, supported by CPAO
Claudia Anyaso, read verbatim from the talking
points provided by Washington and then took
questions. The media briefing was picked up by
the major broadcast stations the same day and the
front pages of some major Nigerian newspapers the
following day. Quotes follow. End summary.

2. Independent Guardian, 12/17/04
"Virgin Nigeria May Not Ply US Route"

Briefing diplomatic correspondents yesterday,
Gregoire said: "We face this current situation
with Virgin Nigeria with deep regret after working
so closely with Nigeria for so many years to
establish the Nigerian service market.... If the
Federal Government had selected an airline partner
from a country other than the UK, the U.S.
government, would be much more likely to give it
favorable consideration."

3. Independent THISDAY, 12/17, 2004
"We Won't Allow Virgin Nigeria Deal - US"

"The United States government has formally said it
will not allow the proposed Virgin Nigeria Airline
to operate direct flights into its country [in]
the same way the United Kingdom where Virgin
Atlantic is based has refused to open the London
market to US airlines.... The US Government,
according to Gregoire, has a long-standing
interest in improving air links with Africa and
would welcome direct air service between the
United States and Nigeria by a new Nigerian
airline."

4. Nigeria Today Online, 12/17/04
"Virgin Nigeria Can't Operate in USA"

"We made our concerns known to both Virgin
Atlantic and to the Nigerian Government well in
advance of [the] conclusion of [the] partnership
creating Virgin Nigeria.... Joseph Gegoire, U.S.
Embassy official in Abuja[,] said Virgin Atlantic
benefits from restrictions in US/UK bilateral
relations and could not therefore benefit... from
the open skies agreement between Nigeria and the
US."

5. Independent Punch, 12/17/04
"US Bars Virgin Nigeria"

"The United States government has barred the new
Nigerian flag carrier, Virgin Nigeria, from flying
into its airspace.... The measure is coming in
spite of the green light given by the federal
government recently to a US carrier, Continental
Airlines, to operate direct flights between Lagos
and New York.... The envoy said, "'We have issues,
serious issues with this new concern, Virgin
Nigeria, which may apply to serve the US-Nigeria
market. First, in our eyes, this is not a
Nigerian airline. According to reports to the US
Government by UK-based Virgin Atlantic, it is an
airline that is under the control of Virgin
Atlantic.'"

6. Independent Guardian, 12/22/04
"Government to Protest US Ban on Virgin Nigeria"

"The Federal Government has resolved to officially
protest to the United States against the decision
not to allow the nation's new airline, Virgin
Nigeria, to operate in that country. The
government has denied that the airline is owned by
Virgin Atlantic.... Minister of Aviation, Mallam
Isa Yuguda, frowned at the allegation [of] U.S.
officials that the new national carrier, Virgin
Nigeria, is owned by Virgin Atlantic of Britain."

7. Confirming the tenor of the above articles,
the Aviation Minister told the Federal Radio
Corporation of Nigeria on December 17 that the US
position on Virgin Nigeria is a "misconception."

FUREY

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