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Cablegate: Usun-Rome Captures Global Audience On Positive

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

UNCLAS ROME 004673

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y - TEXT

FROM U.S. MISSION IN ROME

STATE FOR U/S P MGROSSMAN, U/S E ALARSON, A/S PA RBOUCHER
STATE FOR IO A/S KHOLMES, PRM A/S ADEWEY, IO/EDA, IO/PPC,
USDA/FAS FOR U/S JPENN, MCHAMBLISS AND LREICH
USAID FOR AA/DCHA RWINTER, DAA/DCHA WGARVELINK, DCHA/OFDA,
DCHA/FFP, ANE/MEA
NEA/ENA, AF/E, AF/PDPA, R, IIP, PA
NSC FOR EABRAMS, JMELINE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP KPAO OPRC EAGR AORC PHUM EAID PREF SU LY XA FAO WFP
SUBJECT: USUN-ROME CAPTURES GLOBAL AUDIENCE ON POSITIVE
AMERICAN THEMES

REF:(A) Rome 4582 (B) Rome 4620 (C) Rome 4621 (D) Rome 4624

1. Summary. Facing off in a world media environment
dominated by themes like Iraq and terrorism, USUN-Rome
mounted a month-long blitz that promoted a positive American
story. The Ambassador's tour through Sudan and Libya,
coupled with several local successes in Rome, focused world
media attention on the United States as a humanitarian
leader that cares for the hundreds of millions of victims
suffering hunger and oppression.

2. For two weeks in November, USUN-Rome's aggressive
campaign gained international media attention on hard and
soft news topics. Beginning with a visit to camps in Darfur
and ending with a "hunger banquet" that garnered headlines
worldwide, USUN-Rome reached targeted audiences in Europe
and the Muslim world with the story of U.S. generosity and
commitment to reaching internationally embraced development
goals. Media coverage of the Ambassador's trip to Darfur and
Al Kufrah, Libya (where he commemorated the opening of the
Libyan corridor to food aid shipments) helped to spotlight
the bounty of U.S. humanitarian aid flowing to the crisis in
Sudan. A unique approach to a Thanksgiving reception for
diplomats elicited praise for creativity and compassion.
Together, these efforts reflect the mission's goal of taking
the offense to win hearts and minds by making the stories
and bringing them to journalists - and not the other way
around. End Summary.

DARFUR - TAKING THE OFFENSIVE
------------------------------

3. Ambassador Tony Hall, on November 18-20, visited camps
for displaced Sudanese in North, West and South Darfur to
observe World Food Program operations and the devolving
security situation there. USUN-Rome'S PA Officer worked to
ensure that the Ambassador's party included journalists from
The Washington Post, Cox News Service, VOA, The Economist,
Sunday Times of London and Knight-Ridder. A press conference
organized by the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum produced
additional coverage by the Associated Press, Agence France-
Presse, Al Ayam, Alwan, Sudan Tribune and Middle East
Broadcasting Corp.

4. Coverage of the Ambassador's visit to Sudan projected the
U.S. image as a leader working to help resolve one of the
world's worst humanitarian crises. The delegation was in
Darfur just days prior to the shutdown of WFP operations in
North Darfur due to the lack of security. Thus, Ambassador
Hall's impressions of the security situation were the most
often quoted. AFP wrote, "A United States representative to
the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Tony Hall, said
people were afraid to return to their villages for fear of
further attacks and that their women `will be raped and
their men beaten and killed'".

5. Arabic news services, such as Bahrain-based Al-Ayam,
accurately conveyed the Ambassador's message about the
worsening shortage of aid and his call to continue pressure
on all sides of the conflict to cease violence and improve
security. London-based Middle East Online, reported on the
North Darfur state of emergency, and used Ambassador Hall's
comments about seeing burned-out and abandoned villages.

6. Knight-Ridder journalist, Sudarsan Raghavan, reported on
the likelihood that Darfur would depend on humanitarian aid
for many months to come. "Tony Hall, the U.S. ambassador to
the World Food Program and other U.N. agencies who was in
Darfur on a two-day mission to assess conditions, said he
doubted the situation would improve soon. `We're going to be
here a while, at least another 13 or 14 months,' he said."
Newspapers picked up Knight Ridder's story, "Crisis in Sudan
deepens as new violence prevents food deliveries" across the
U.S., including the Philadelphia Inquirer and Kansas City


Star. Other U.S. media outlets picking up Ambassador Hall's
trip included the Miami Herald, Duluth News Tribune, San
Luis Obispo Tribune and Bradenton Herald.
OPENING A LIBYAN CORRIDOR
--------------------------

7. From Darfur, Ambassador Hall traveled to Tripoli to greet
the first U.S. food aid shipment transiting Libya on its way
to Darfurian refugees. In the town of Al Kufrah in the
Libyan desert he met with Libyan government and World Food
Program officials to witness the passage of a kilometer-long
caravan of trucks carrying 6,540 metric tons of United
States food aid to refugee camps in Chad. The event heralded
a landmark agreement reached in August between WFP and the
Libyan government that guarantees the safe passage of food
aid and other humanitarian supplies through Libya to Chad by
air, water and road.

8. USUN-Rome PAO worked closely with WFP press officers in
Rome and Nairobi to take advantage of the media potential of
the Libya event. During a difficult time to attract "good
news" coverage due to competing stories (Arafat's death, UN
Security Council in Nairobi, a meeting of foreign ministers
in Sharm al-Sheikh) the event nonetheless attracted
journalists from BBC News, CBS, VOA, RAI TV (Italian state
television), AP Photo, Radio France (NPR equivalent), LBC
(Libyan Broadcasting Company), and TV Tripoli.

9. Arabic and international news outlets covered the event
with a positive spin. From the Panafrican News Agency: "For
the first time, the UN World Food Programme is sending
United States food assistance through Libya, along a
humanitarian corridor across the Sahara desert, to reach
nearly 200,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad. `The human
tragedy unfolding in Darfur and eastern Chad over the past
several months has compelled us to respond,' said Tony Hall,
US Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture."
All Africa.com web site and The Sudan Tribune picked up
similar stories featuring the delivery of U.S. food aid
through Libya.

10. Wall Street Journal reporter Roger Thurow wrote: "The
corridor also illustrates the huge challenge facing the
international aid community in its efforts to help the
people of Darfur, Sudan, one of the most remote regions of
Africa. American sorghum, cornmeal, lentils, corn-soya blend
and vegetable oil are arriving in the refugee camps as aid
agencies confront the prospect of feeding nearly two million
displaced Darfur residents for a least another year."

11. Other international and U.S. media that picked up the
passage of U.S. food aid through Libya included ABC,
Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Washington Times, Reuters and
BBC News.

KEEPING THE STORY ALIVE
-------------------------
12. Once back in Rome, the Mission further broadened the
outreach through three additional press gatherings done in
cooperation with the bilateral and the Holy See missions. A
digital videoconference (DVC) with USUN Geneva and Embassy
Cairo gathered Italian, international and Vatican
journalists to add further legs to our story. US Mission
Geneva and USUN-Rome worked together with WFP counterparts
to have two WFP senior officials in the room with
journalists in Geneva. While online with Geneva, USUN-Rome
also patched in a reporter with a leading Cairo-based Arabic
newspaper, al-Ahram, to give an exclusive.
13. A second DVC joined Ambassadors John Danforth and Hall
with reporters at the Foreign Press Center in New York. The
interplay among them broadened stories on Darfur written by
New York-based journalists who often are more likely to
focus on the shortcomings of the Security Council than the


successes of WFP and America's role in promoting
humanitarian assistance.

14. Close to two weeks following our visits in Sudan and
Libya, journalists continued to report on key points made by
the Ambassador but not often covered by the media. In
"Darfurians Could Lose Land They Fled: Obscure Law, if
Applied, Would Let Sudan Seize Acreage Abandoned for a
Year," Emily Wax of the Washington Post, who accompanied the
trip, quoted the Ambassador, "Even if you get the displaced
to go home, they would not own their land anymore. They
might have to rent it or be forever homeless. I think we
would then see a conflict and death toll that would be
horrifying.'" Other US papers reprinted her story.
HUNGER BANQUET SCORES WIDE COVERAGE
------------------------------------

15. On Thanksgiving Eve, the day after returning from Libya,
Ambassador Hall hosted a reception that surprised us with
the broad extent of world media coverage it generated. The
event was for permanent representatives to the FAO and
visiting officials from Ministries of Agriculture who were
in town for an FAO Council meeting. In an effort to
underline the plight of the hungry and poor, USUN-Rome took
the format used by Oxfam America to host a "hunger banquet".
Guests chose color-coded cards upon arrival that separated
them into three categories of wealth. The largest group - 60
percent - stayed outside beneath a tent eating rice. A
second group of about 25 percent ate rice and beans, and
just a handful was served a full meal, complete with wine.
After about 30 minutes, Ambassador Hall (who was with the
group eating rice) gathered everyone inside to talk about
the event and its impetus and then opened a traditional
buffet. USUN-Rome PAO invited a small group of journalists
to attend the event.

16. International media picked up an Agence France-Presse
wire story written by a reporter in attendance. The piece
ran on page three in the International Herald Tribune and
the front page of London's Daily Telegraph. The Ambassador
spoke with several local and national BBC radio stations. He
was interviewed by Spanish-based expatriate radio station,
Radio Europe, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Stories mainly focused on the image of diplomats being given
bowls of rice and asked to stand outside during a reception.
The event was portrayed widely as creative and compassionate
in thrust.

17. Agence France-Presse reporter Denis Barnett led with "It
was a Thanksgiving reception with a twist from Tony Hall,
the US ambassador to the UN food agencies. and a zealous
anti-hunger campaigner, Hall decided to try something a
little different, even if it meant discomfiting his
colleagues on the diplomatic circuit."

18. David Blair of the Daily Telegraph wrote,
"Distinguished diplomats were reduced to eating handfuls of
cold rice yesterday when the American ambassador in Rome
threw a Thanksgiving reception designed to remind the corps
diplomatique of the scale of world hunger." Newspapers
around the world, including the Sydney Morning Herald,
Indian Express and The Age in Melbourne, Australia, picked
up Blair's story.

19. London's Sunday Times wrote a 1,400-word profile on
Ambassador Hall and the Hunger Banquet. The Sunday Times
mentions Hall's time in the Peace Corps, and writes
extensively about a 1993 hunger fast in protest of the
abolition of the Select Committee on Hunger, which Hall had
helped to create and run.

THROWING THE SPEARS
------------------------

20. In a world where too often we end up taking the hits,


this past month we threw the spears. In concert with a
coordinated media outreach plan, the Ambassador's activities
in Sudan, Libya and Rome pushed forward U.S. foreign policy
objectives - and met many of USUN-Rome's MPP goals. The
Mission consistently reinforced the call for an immediate
end to violence in Darfur with first-hand accounts of grave
security failures. We spotlighted the U.S. Government's
role as a humanitarian leader in the worst of crises. At the
same time we underlined the need for greater assistance from
donor countries to support American efforts. Most
important, we succeeded in getting out a good story: the
tremendous support of the United States for people in need.

21. Minimize considered.

CLEVERLEY


NNNN
2004ROME04673 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

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