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Cablegate: Mfa Stresses Positive U.S.-Lesotho Relations to Af/S

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: A) MASERU 149 B) 04 MASERU 675

1. (U) SUMMARY: During his familiarization visit to Lesotho,
AF/S Director Dan Mozena met April 4 with Minister of Foreign
Affairs Monyane Moleleki. Ambassador Perry and DCM (notetaker)
accompanied. Topics covered included the upcoming local
elections, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, HIV/AIDS, Article 98, the U.S.
- Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Free Trade Agreement
(FTA) and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) . In
particular, Mozena noted the sizeable progress in
democratization in Lesotho since the 1998 unrest, contrasting it
with recent developments in Zimbabwe, and stressed the keen
attention being paid to the local government elections. He
urged that the GOL sign an Article 98 agreement as soon as
possible and that progress be made on the FTA. Praising the
U.S. as a loyal friend of Lesotho, Moleleki said his government
had similar concerns regarding Zimbabwe. He assured Mozena that
the Article 98 issue was a top priority, although the matter had
to be approached with a certain sensitivity towards Lesotho's
role in creating the ICC. The Minister also expressed Lesotho's
support for advancing the FTA negotiations and the MCA project
approval process. The meeting's very positive overall tone
highlighted the common interests of the U.S. and Lesotho on
several important issues. GOL action is needed also, however.

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2. (SBU) Mozena began by emphasizing the strong interest of the
U.S. in Lesotho's April 30 local government elections, the first
since independence, both as another advance in Lesotho's
consolidation of democracy and as part of the overall trend
towards democratic rule in southern Africa. Lesotho had made
huge progress since the political turmoil and violence of 1998,
holding free and fair national elections in 2002; the upcoming
local elections would be another milestone. In addition, they
would offer an especially stark contrast with the lamentable
recent polls in Zimbabwe which are now the exception in the
region. One hopes that the leadership in Swaziland will also
take note of Lesotho's democratization, he added.

3. (SBU) Moleleki expressed deep concern with the situation in
Zimbabwe, opining that the current regime is so entrenched that
meaningful change may have to wait for a new generation of
leaders. The GOL leadership is frustrated with Zimbabwe and
while Chair of the SADC troika, had visited Mugabe urging him to
address the serious issues facing the country. The GOZ, however,
had not acknowledged the very difficult situation. Regarding
Swaziland, Moleleki said that the GOL encourages King Letsie to
talk to his Swazi counterpart about good governance. In
addition, the SADC heads of state strongly engage King Mswati
whenever the group meets.

4. (SBU) A significant amount of discussion focused on Article
98/ICC. Mozena and Ambassador Perry stressed the importance the
USG attaches to this matter. Having an Agreement would be a
real signal of the maturing U.S. - Lesotho bilateral
relationship. The number of countries engaged by the U.S. on
this issue who have not signed such a document continues to
shrink, making Lesotho an increasingly conspicuous exception.
While asserting that getting an Agreement was "at the top of my
personal agenda and the right thing to do," Moleleki said the
issue had to be approached with a certain sensitivity and "sense
of timing," as Lesotho had played a prominent role in drafting
the Rome Treaty. Mozena noted that Treaty provisions allow
for an agreement of the type the U.S. desires, thus, there is no
inconsistency with signing the latter; many other countries
which had worked on the Treaty have, in fact, subsequently done
an Article 98 Agreement with the U.S. The Minister promised
to determine the right moment to try to secure the government's
approval on this and that he may move to create that opportunity.

5. (U) Other topics were discussed briefly. Mozena reiterated
the USG's commitment to helping Lesotho regarding HIV/AIDS;
ultimately, however, the people and government of Lesotho will
be the ones to win or lose the battle. He noted the progress
made on Lesotho's MCA proposal, but stressed the importance of
keeping the approval process moving forward. Progress on the
U.S. - SACU FTA has stalled, and while we know Lesotho's
commitment to pursuing such an agreement, there may come a
point, unless the situation changes, when the USG is no longer
is interested. Moleleki expressed his complete support for the
advancing the MCA process expeditiously. Similarly, the FTA
negotiations need to make progress; an upcoming meeting of SACU
members (minus Swaziland) would take up this matter.

6. (SBU) COMMENT. The overall tone of the meeting was very
cordial, with Moleleki concurring with much of the USG position
on the various subjects discussed. The session also reinforced
the positive relationship post and the USG have with both the
minister and his government. The ultimate test of the GOL's
commitment and effectiveness on the issues raised, however,
will be action. Much progress has been made on the MCA

MASERU 00000176 002 OF 002

proposal, for example, but a good deal of technical work remains
to be done by the GOL (ref A). SACU has not meaningfully
reengaged the USG on the FTA, regardless of Lesotho's genuine
interest and leadership in pursuing an agreement. Moleleki
seems to be our ally regarding Article 98, but the GOL's
timelines have slipped since the end of last year (ref B).
(Septel to follow.)


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