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Cablegate: Najaf, Goi Officials Agree to Closer Coordination On

VZCZCXRO1056
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHIHL #0162/01 3350932
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 010932Z DEC 07
FM REO HILLAH
TO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0879
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0997
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHIHL/REO HILLAH 1061

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HILLAH 000162

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAIR ECON IZ
SUBJECT: NAJAF, GOI OFFICIALS AGREE TO CLOSER COORDINATION ON
AIRPORT

REF: HILLAH 125

HILLAH 00000162 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) This is a PRT Najaf cable.

2. (U) SUMMARY: In a November 28 meeting at the Najaf Aiport
with the U.S. Transportation Attachi, EmbOffs, PRT Najaf Team
Leader, 3ID Deputy Division Commander, and the Director General
(DG) of the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA), the Najaf
Governor and Deputy Governor agreed that a design and
construction management firm is needed to oversee the completion
of the Najaf Airport Project (NAP) in accordance with
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. The
Najaf officials pledged to submit all NAP designs to the ICAA in
advance of construction and promised to coordinate closely all
activities with the ICAA in order to ensure ICAO compliance. END
SUMMARY.

3. (U) On November 28, the U.S. Transportation Attachi,
representatives from the Transportation Attache's Office (TAO),
EmbOffs, PRT Najaf Team Leader, PRT Najaf Engineer, GRS
Engineer, 3ID Deputy Division Commander, and Sabeeh Al Shebany,
DG of the ICAA, traveled to the Najaf airport where they met
with Najaf Governor Asaad Sultaan Abu Gelal al-Ta'ie Islamic
Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), Najaf Deputy Governor Abdul
Hussein Baqir Abtan (ISCI), Haider al-Mayali, Chair of the Najaf
Reconstruction Council (NRC), and NAP officials. The meeting
provided the first opportunity for DG Sabeeh see the Najaf
airport and to meet with Najaf officials.

4. (U) NRC Chair al-Mayali opened the meeting by providing a
snapshot of the NAP. To date, Najaf officials have spent USD
fifteen million on the NAP, building internal roads, a vehicle
parking lot, eleven guard towers, a security fence, while
providing fifteen trailers and filling in numerous open wells on
the site. Ongoing projects with contracts awarded include a
runway apron and helipad paid for with 2006 U.S. Economic
Support Funds (ESF), aircraft turning and parking areas, runway
resurfacing and lighting, a fire station, airport equipment such
as portable staircases, the main terminal building and a water
compact unit. Projects for which the contracts are expected to
be awarded in the coming weeks include the principle entry and
exit road, the electrical distribution system, ten additional
security towers, and ambulance and postal services. According
to NAP Deputy Director Dr. Saeed Abdulla, the current and future
NAP projects will cost approximately USD 39 million. An outer
security wall and the fueling station projects are high priority
items on Najaf's Prioritized Project List, and will likely be
submitted for consideration for 2007 ESF support.

5. (U) Following the NAP status update, the Transportation
Attachi commended the local officials for the progress made on
the NAP, but cautioned that the work must be done in an
ICAO-compliant manner to promote safety in the air and on the
ground. Since the ICAA is charged with certifying ICAO
compliance, the Transportation Attachi suggested that the plans
be submitted to the ICAA prior to construction to speed up the
review process. He noted that the recently released Boeing
analysis of the NAP (reftel) highlighted the need for on-site
aviation experts. As such, the Transportation Attachi suggested
that Najaf hire a airport design and construction management
firm that would share the plans with the ICAA, oversee
construction and develop ICAO-compliant security and emergency
plans.

6. (U) Deputy Governor Abtan asserted that since the inception
of the NAP, Najaf officials have been coordinating with the ICAA
to ensure ICAO compliance. He pointed out that an ICAA employee
is working full-time on the site to ensure that international
standards are applied. Nevertheless, Abtan conceded that the
NAP has long suffered from a lack of aviation expertise, and he
embraced the idea of hiring an aviation consulting firm. He
asked that the TAO provide a list of possible firms, and he
suggested that the ICAA select the firm with which they would
prefer to work. The Transportation Attache said that he would
contact firms that managed the construction of the airports in
Irbil and Sulaymaniyah, as well as firms based in the U.S., and
would provide Najaf officials and the ICAA with a short list of
candidates.

7. (U) Responding to several comments from Najaf officials
stressing the urgency of the completion of the NAP, the
Transportation Attachi said that he would provide local
officials within one week a sense of how the hiring of the
aviation consulting firm would impact the NAP timeline. When
asked by Abtan if the USG was prepared to pay for the hiring of
the firm, PRT Najaf Team Leader explained that the USG officials
would discuss funding options and present those options to Najaf
officials as quickly as possible.

8. (U) Following the adjournment of the meeting, the Najaf
Governor asked PRT Team Leader and 3ID Deputy Division Commander

HILLAH 00000162 002.3 OF 002


for USG advice and assistance for airport security and long-term
training for airport management. In a separate conversation,
Dr. Abdulla said that DG Sabeeh admitted that the meeting had
disabused him of the notion that Najaf officials were
uncooperative with the ICAA, and that he was confident that the
NAP would proceed with close collaboration between Najaf and
Baghdad.

9. (SBU) COMMENT: The Najaf Governor and Deputy Governor in
particular have been driven to complete the NAP prior to the
next provincial election. Therefore publicly agreeing to hire a
design and construction management firm, which may delay
completion of the NAP for many months, was a major concession
and reflected the reality that a hurried, ICAO-non-compliant
airport is of little value. Of equal importance, however, was
the apparent buy-in the meeting generated for DG Sabeeh. The
relationship between Najaf officials and the ICAA had long been
strained; however, the meeting appears to have laid the
foundation for close collaboration between Najaf and Baghdad.
END COMMENT


RCLEVELAND
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