Cablegate: Codel Mccain Meets Muammar and Muatassim Al-Qadhafi
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0677/01 2311536
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P R 191536Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5173
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1125
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0798
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0567
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5717
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000677
STATE FOR NEA/MAG AND H
E.O. 12958: DECL: 8/19/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINS PINR PTER MASS MCAP LY
SUBJECT: CODEL MCCAIN MEETS MUAMMAR AND MUATASSIM AL-QADHAFI
REF: A. TRIPOLI 662; B. TRIPOLI 674; C. STATE 43049; D. TRIPOLI 648 TRIPOLI 00000677 001.2 OF 002 CLASSIFIED BY: Joan Polaschik, Charge d'Affaires, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(C) CODEL McCain discussed security, counterterrorism, and civil-nuclear cooperation during August 14 meetings with Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi and his son, National Security Advisor Muatassim al-Qadhafi, stressing the need for Libya to fulfill its WMD-related commitments and to approve a Section 505 end-user agreement in order to move forward on bilateral military and civil-nuclear engagement. While Muatassim al-Qadhafi reiterated long-standing Libyan requests for security assurances from the United States and emphasized Libya's interest in the purchase of U.S. lethal and non-lethal military equipment, Muammar al-Qadhafi was notably silent on these subjects. The elder Qadhafi made a point of expressing his satisfaction with the improved U.S relationship and his hope that the relationship would continue to flourish. CODEL McCain's discussion of the Megrahi case was reported ref A. End summary.
2.(SBU) CODEL McCain (R-Az), including Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senator Susan Collins (R-SC) and Senate Armed Services Committee Staffer Richard Fontaine held back-to-back meetings August 14 with Libyan National Security Advisor Muatassim al-Qadhafi and Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qadhafi. Libyan officials NSC Director Dr. Hend Siala, MFA Department of Americas Secretary Ahmed Fituri and MFA Office of Americas Director Mohamed Matari also attended the meetings, as did Charge and Pol/Econ Chief (notetaker).
MUATASSIM MEETING SECURITY FOCUSED
3.(C) Characterizing the overall pace of the bilateral relationship as excellent, CODEL McCain opened its August 14 meeting with National Security Advisor Muatassim al-Qadhafi by noting the drastic change that the relationship had undergone over the last five years. "We never would have guessed ten years ago that we would be sitting in Tripoli, being welcomed by a son of Muammar al-Qadhafi," remarked Senator Lieberman. He stated that the situation demonstrated that change is possible and expressed appreciation that Libya had kept its promises to give up its WMD program and renounce terrorism. Lieberman called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends. The Senators recognized Libya's cooperation on counterterrorism and conveyed that it was in the interest of both countries to make the relationship stronger. They encouraged Libya to sign the Highly Enriched Uranium transfer agreement by August 15 in order to fulfill its obligation to transfer its nuclear spent fuel to Russia for treatment and disposal. [Note: The Libyan Government subsequently informed us of its intent to sign the agreement on August 17 and has begun taking good-faith steps to do so (ref B). End note.]
4.(C) Muatassim welcomed the high-level visit, describing it as a good sign for the relationship - a relationship that Libya wants to develop. He explained to the Senators the recent requests that the National Security Council had made to procure defense equipment. He stated that there were three categories of requests: one which was approved by the USG, another which awaited congressional approval, and a third which waited USG agreement. He reiterated the refrain he conveyed to Secretary Clinton during his April visit (ref C) -- Libya has not been adequately rewarded for its decision to give up WMD and needed some sort of security assurance from the United States. He emphasized the need for Libya to purchase U.S. non-lethal equipment in order to enhance its defense posture. Muatassim requested the "highest level of help possible" to obtain military supplies, including mobile hospitals and uniforms. He also requested assistance with upgrading Libya's equipment, including helicopters. "We can get [equipment] from Russia or China, but we want to get it from you as a symbol of faith from the United States," he said. He described the security threats that Libya could possibly face as a result of its geography - "There are 60 million Algerians to the West, 80 million Egyptians to the East, we have Europe in front of us, and we face Sub-Saharan Africa with its problems to the South." Muatassim stressed that Libya wanted security assurances from the United States as a sign that the United States was still committed to Libya. He pledged to work with the MFA on approval of the Section 505 end user agreement, as well as the signing of the nuclear spent fuel (highly enriched uranium-low enriched uranium) transfer agreement.
5.(C) Senator McCain assured Muatassim that the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its TRIPOLI 00000677 002.2 OF 002 security. He stated that he understood Libya's requests regarding the rehabilitation of its eight C130s (ref D) and pledged to see what he could do to move things forward in Congress. He encouraged Muatassim to keep in mind the long-term perspective of bilateral security engagement and to remember that small obstacles will emerge from time to time that can be overcome. He described the bilateral military relationship as strong and pointed to Libyan officer training at U.S. Command, Staff, and War colleges as some of the best programs for Libyan military participation.
ELDER QADHAFI QUIETLY LISTENS
6.(C) Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, who joined the group in the same tent in which Muatassim had met the CODEL, likewise highlighted the strength of the U.S.-Libya relationship. Qadhafi commented that friendship was better for the people of both countries and expressed his desire to see the relationship flourish. He thanked the Senators for their visit and described America as a race rather than a nationality, explaining that many Libyans are dual citizens because they were born in the United States. Senators McCain and Graham conveyed the U.S. interest in continuing the progress of the bilateral relationship and pledged to try to resolve the C130 issue with Congress and Defense Secretary Gates. The Senators expressed appreciation for Libya's counterterrorism cooperation in the region. They urged Libya to fulfill the remainder of its WMD commitments. Senator Graham reiterated the need for improved U.S. Embassy security and urged Qadhafi to approve the site for a New Embassy Compound (NEC) as a way to fortify the relationship. Qadhafi remained quiet throughout the discussion and did not respond specifically to any of the issues with the exception of Megrahi (ref A). He indicated that the National Security Council would be charged with addressing the security-related issues. COMMENT
7.(C) CODEL McCain's meetings with Muammar and Muatassim al-Qadhafi were positive, highlighting the progress that has been made in the bilateral relationship. The meetings also reiterated Libya's desire for enhanced security cooperation, increased assistance in the procurement of defense equipment, and resolution to the C130s issue. Although Muatassim al-Qadhafi repeated Libya's familiar complaint that it has not received enough recognition and support in exchange for its decision to abandon its WMD programs, Muammar al-Qadhafi was notably silent on this issue. Qadhafi's silence on these issues may have been part of his reaction to the CODEL's discussion of the pending release of convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi (ref A), an issue that reportedly is of great personal concern to Qadhafi.
8.(C) Senior Libyan officials confided that the CODEL's meeting with Qadhafi took place so late in the evening (nearly 11 pm) because the Leader had been fasting and usually takes a nap after breaking his fast. The Libyan officials told us that Qadhafi often fasts on Mondays and Thursdays and is doing so now, in the run up to the holy month of Ramadan. Qadhafi appeared as if he had been roused from a deep slumber for the meeting. He showed up with rumpled hair and puffy eyes, and was casually dressed in a short-sleeved shirt patterned with the continent of Africa, wrinkled pants and slip-on shoes. In spite of his appearance, Qadhafi was lucid and engaged throughout the meeting. Muatassim al-Qadhafi, on the other hand, revealed his lack of strategic depth throughout the meeting, referring to "the 52 countries of America -- or is that Africa?" and asking MFA officials to clarlify Libya's role in the upcoming UN General Assembly.
9.(C) Muatassim conducted his meeting in English, while his father used an interpreter for his meeting. The elder Qadhafi appeared to understand some of the CODEL's English-language remarks and offered a few comments in English.
10.(U) CODEL McCain did not have the opportunity to clear this message prior to departure. POLASCHIK