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Cablegate: French Mfa Overview of North African Issues

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFR #4533/01 3241611
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 201611Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1172
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE

S E C R E T PARIS 004533

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER ETRD PINR FR MO AG TU LY
SUBJECT: FRENCH MFA OVERVIEW OF NORTH AFRICAN ISSUES

REF: RABAT 1657

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Josiah
Rosenblatt for reasons 1.4. (b) and (d).

1. (S) Summary: We reviewed a number of North African
issues with French MFA DAS-equivalent for North Africa
Nathalie Loiseau earlier this month. She called President
Sarkozy,s state visit to Morocco positive and, despite the
failure to sell the Moroccans Rafale fighters, excellent for
French commercial interests. The decision by a French
investigating judge to sign arrest warrants for the head of
the Moroccan gendarmerie and other former officials over the
1965 Ben Barka disappearance had not disrupted the visit but
upset the French justice minister accompanying Sarkozy.
There was no hidden agenda behind the action, according to
Loiseau; just a zealous judge looking for publicity.
Sarkozy,s forward-leaning public statement on Western Sahara
had predictably pleased the Moroccans and displeased the
Algerians, although their demarche had been more tepid than
expected. Preparations were underway for Sarkozy,s early
December state visit to Algeria, which will follow municipal
elections in that country and occur amid ongoing French
concern about the security situation. During an early 2008
visit to Tunisia (Action Request Paragraph 7), Loiseau
expects Sarkozy to press President Ben Ali to improve what
France considers to be an unsatisfactory relationship in
terms of security cooperation and exchange of information on
terrorism. Loiseau said no dates had been set for a much
rumored visit by Libyan leader Qadhafi to Paris, although the
Elyse,s NEA adviser said he is working on a program for a
December visit. End summary

Morocco: A Good State Visit Despite Ben Barka
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (C) Loiseau had little to add to the excellent summary
of the highlights of French President Sarkozy,s late October
visit to Morocco in reftel. The only sour note was the
French loss of the Rafale fighter sale because of a better
U.S. offer to sell used F-16s. Loiseau was philosophical
about the missed opportunity and deflected French press
claims that the episode had spurred creation of an
interagency ""rapid reaction cell"" to coordinate France,s
response to similar competition in the future. She claimed
the Rafale debacle had been a shock but not the first or
necessarily the last. France had long ago learned that it
needed to work more effectively in the face of American
competition and had set up the group some time ago. The
feverish manner in which the French press reported the
Moroccan decision not to buy the Rafale made it appear that
it had caused the GOF to set up this working group. Overall,
the French were comforted by the other commercial and
construction contracts signed.

3. (C) Loiseau indicated that the decision by a French
investigating judge during the visit to sign international
arrest warrants for a number of former and current Moroccan
officials (including Gendarmerie head Benslimane) over the
1965 disappearance of Moroccan oppositionist Ben Barka had
not come up. Sarkozy,s Moroccan hosts said nothing, and the
predictably angry Moroccan press treatment did not begin
until after Sarkozy and his delegation had left the country.
Even though the Moroccans had not raised the Ben Barka case,
according to Loiseau, French Justice Minister Rachida Dati,
who accompanied Sarkozy and is of half Moroccan origin, was
furious over the judge,s action. As with the Rafale,
Loiseau was more philosophical. The judge knew what he was
doing by signing the warrants while Sarkozy was in Morocco
and wanted both the publicity he would receive and the added
pressure on the Moroccan government that it would generate.
Loiseau observed that the Moroccans, as indicated in numerous
articles, had ignored previous requests by the judge for
assistance in his investigation or been otherwise
uncooperative. She denied any suggestion that the GOF had
somehow encouraged the judge to take the action in order to
pressure the Moroccans over human rights in Morocco or
Western Sahara. (Comment: As Loiseau noted, the current
iteration of this longstanding ""cold case"" was brought by Ben
Barka,s family several years ago and early in the reign of
King Mohammed VI (""M6""). The move to reopen the case, in
fact, initially triggered hope that M6 would underscore his
desire to break with the human rights abuses his father
tolerated by finally allowing access to security files and
testimony by those still living who were implicated in the
case. End comment)

4. (C) We asked whether Sarkozy raised any human rights
issues with M6, including restrictions on the press as called
for by a leading French NGO. Loiseau responded that Sarkozy
may have raised the subject in his private meetings with M6
but claimed not to have any readout. She added that France
has preferred to conduct its dialogue with Morocco on human
rights and reform in a larger EU context. Loiseau was
familiar with the range of concerns we tend to raise with
Morocco, having previously served in Rabat, and generally
agreed with them. However, France feels Morocco overall is
doing more things right than wrong in terms of reform and
respect for human rights. The recent elections may have been
flawed but more because the parties were not able to generate
enough enthusiasm among voters to turn out at the polls.
While she acknowledged the lackluster nature of new
government, the real problem for Morocco was the general
apathy and lack of connection by most people to the
country,s political class.

Western Sahara
--------------

5. (C) Taking note of Sarkozy,s relatively strong public
endorsement while in Morocco of the Moroccan position on the
long-running dispute over the Western Sahara, we asked
Loiseau whether this had generated any negative reaction in
Algiers or from the Polisario. She replied that the
Algerians had complained but in a remarkably mild, almost
inert fashion. They had delivered their demarche at a lower
level than one might have expected and were less strident or
ideological than usual. Loiseau did not offer an explanation
for the Algerian attitude but agreed that there seemed to be
more inertia than energy at play. She expected that the
Polisario would have more to say when she met with them later
in the week. Loiseau agreed that the Moroccans were not
eager to resume UN-sponsored negotiations under current
circumstances but expected they would resume according to the
timeframe UN envoy van Walsum outlines.

On to Algeria
-------------

6. (C) Loiseau said her office was now working with the
French Presidency on Sarkozy,s early December state visit to
Algiers. She offered no insights into what the GOF expected
from that visit, although the security situation and
President Bouteflika,s health are on everyone,s mind.
Loiseau was not happy about the visit occurring immediately
after Algerian municipal elections, whose outcome would
inevitably color perceptions.

And Beyond that Tunisia
-----------------------

7. (S) Looking ahead to Sarkozy,s state visit to Tunisia
early in 2008, Loiseau indicated that Sarkozy intended to
raise with President Ben Ali French concerns about continuing
Tunisian reticence in terms of sharing information about
security threats. She said that Sarkozy, as a former
interior minister, is extremely unhappy with the
unsatisfactory state of cooperation and the exchange of
intelligence information concerning terrorism. The memories
of what happened late last year and early this year when the
AQIM cell that went undetected for so long as well as
Tunisian dissembling in the aftermath of its discovery still
linger. Loiseau asked whether the USG could provide, in
whatever appropriate channel, a summary of its own experience
to help the GOF prepare Sarkozy for this conversation.
(Action request: Please inform Embassy Paris if Washington
takes action on this request).

Libya and Rumors of a Qadhafi Christmas in Paris
--------------------------------------------- ---

8. (C) We inquired whether reports in the press about
Libyan leader Qadhafi visiting Paris in December were
accurate. Loiseau answered that Sarkozy had invited Qadhafi
to visit France last July, when Sarkozy visited Libya, and
repeated the invitation in subsequent phone calls. However,
the press was not necessarily accurate because it was trying
to link the visit to ongoing and tendentious coverage of the
parliamentary investigation of the deal that led to the
release of the Bulgarian ""medics."" We asked whether Libya,s
past association with terrorism was an element in this
coverage and how the GOF would treat Qadhafi, given his
ambiguous title as ""guide"" of the revolution and not head of
state, should he be the subject of calls for prosecution in
connection with the bombing of UTA 772. Loiseau responded
that the past association with terrorism was certainly part
of the general interest in whether Qadhafi had truly been
""rehabilitated,"" but she said the resonance of protests by
family members of UTA 772 was limited compared to that of Pan
Am 103 in the U.S. As for Qadhafi,s legal status, France
would grant him full legal immunity as de facto head of state.

9. (C) In a November 13 meeting with French Presidency
adviser on NEA issues Boris Boillon, he indicated that he was
actively working on a program for a December Qadhafi visit.
He claimed no date had been set and implied that the fault
lay with the Libyans.

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm


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