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Cablegate: Italy Supports Afghan Elections, Plans G8

VZCZCXRO2606
PP RUEHFL RUEHNP
DE RUEHRO #1284 2971627
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231627Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY ROME
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1037
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0436
RUEHMIL/AMCONSUL MILAN PRIORITY 9602
RUEHFL/AMCONSUL FLORENCE PRIORITY 3243
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES PRIORITY 3397
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2974
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS ROME 001284

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

SCA/A FOR NISHA SINGH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV IT AF
SUBJECT: ITALY SUPPORTS AFGHAN ELECTIONS, PLANS G8
MINISTERIAL OUTREACH SESSION ON AFGHANISTAN

REF: A. STATE 108855
B. ROME 1251
C. ROME 1219

1. Sensitive but Unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

2.(SBU) Poloff delivered Ref A demarche requesting support
for the 2009 and 2010 Afghan Elections to Italian MFA Special
Envoy for Afghanistan Sergio Mercuri on October 21. Mercuri
said that Italy has already contributed Euro 5 million to
support Afghan elections since 2003, via UNDP and other
channels, and had announced an additional Euro 1 million for
election support at the Paris Support Conference in June (as
part of its pledge of Euro 60 million per year for three
years). He did not rule out the possibility of additional
contributions in the run-up to the 2009 elections, but said
that Italy's tight budgetary situation would make new aid
requests above the existing pledge levels difficult. (Note:
MFA officials have told us that although aid levels will be
slashed by up to 60 per cent in 2009, the MFA has secured a
commitment from the Finance Ministry to support Italy's
3-year Paris pledge, thereby protecting Afghan aid from
budget cuts (Refs B and C))

2. (SBU) Italy is concerned that little progress had been
made on the draft Afghan Electoral Law, but is not linking
its financial contribution to completion of the law. Mercuri
agreed that presidential and provincial council elections
should be held on schedule in 2009 and not be allowed to
slip.

3. (SBU) Mercuri also asked for U.S. support for Italy's
plan, which FM Frattini had announced the same day in
Islamabad, to hold a Ministerial-level Conference on
Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of its G8 Presidency in
2009. Mercuri stressed that the "conference" would in fact
be a simple Ministerial side event as part of the Outreach
session in May or June, preceded by meetings at the Assistant
Secretary and Political Director level in the run-up to the
2009 Summit, in line with what Germany had done with regard
to Afghanistan during its 2007 presidency. He did not yet
have details on the proposed conference agenda, but said that
the focus would be regional cooperation with an emphasis on
strengthening security and cooperation along the
Afghan-Pakistan border. Outreach partners being considered
include India, China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but the final
format had not been decided and Italy would welcome U.S.
input on the matter. The conference would be designed to
compliment, not compete with existing mechanisms such as the
NATO-led Tripartite Meetings or the Friends of Pakistan
group, of which Italy is glad to be a part.

4. (SBU) When asked whether combating the narcotics problem
in Afghanistan would be a theme of Italy's G8 presidency, as
FM Frattini has suggested in the press on previous occasions,
Mercuri replied that counternarcotics would be addressed (as
it has been in the last several G8 ministerial declarations),
but the primary forum for the discussion would likely be the
G8 Rome-Lyon working groups and not the Ministerial session.

DIBBLE

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