Cablegate: Embassy Tripoli

DE RUEHTRO #0678/01 2321022
P R 201022Z AUG 09




E.O. 12958: DECL: 8/20/2019
QADHAFI DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION LAYS OUT GOALS, BUT SAIF TO REMAIN OFFICIALLY OUTSIDE OF POLITICS REF: A. Tripoli 487; B. State 129000; C. 08 Tripoli 679 TRIPOLI 00000678 001.2 OF 002 CLASSIFIED BY: Joan Polaschik, Charge d'Affaires, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.(S/NF) Summary. Qadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation Executive Director Yusuf Sawani discussed with the Charge and Pol/Econ Chief the foundation's human rights work, its overall workplan, and preparations for its annual youth rally August 20. He stated unequivocally that Saif would not attend the youth rally, but noted that he may broadcast remarks via satellite from Europe. [Note: Other reporting indicates that Saif does/does plan to return to Tripoli around August 20.] He confirmed that Saif al-Islam's new satellite TV station, "Al Mutawasat/The Mediterranean," would begin broadcasting from the UK on August 20. Sawani claimed not to know whether Saif planned to return to Tripoli for the 40th anniversary of his father's coup and insisted that that although Saif was involved in the government's "rehabilitation" efforts of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group members, he would continue to operate outside of the official political sphere. Sawani did not comment on Saif's recent 1.5 million pound sterling donation to the Center for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics. Sawani's comments on Saif's interest in repatriating Abdel Basset al-Megrahi were reported in ref A. End Summary.

2.(C) In an August 16 meeting with Charge and Pol/Econ Chief, Yusuf Sawani, the Executive Director of Saif al-Islam's Qadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation (QDF), commended the U.S. initiative to launch a bilateral Human Rights Dialogue, noting that Saif had recommended during his November 2008 visit to Washington the establishment of a joint commission to investigate and report on bilateral human rights issues (ref B). Sawani said that Saif thought it was necessary to orient the Libyan Government toward areas where it should focus its attention, including human rights, via direct discussions between the nations. Sawani thought the bilateral Human Rights Dialogue would be a valuable mechanism for minimizing areas of disagreement and encouraging transparency within the relationship.

3.(C) Regarding the recent statement of objectives that QDF distributed the week of August 10, Sawani noted that the three issue areas highlighted in the statement were ongoing projects for the Foundation that it intended to bring to completion in the short-term. Those areas include: work to complete compensation payments to families of those killed in the Abu Salim prison riots; assistance to families affected by Libya's participation in Chad's civil war and demining efforts in Chad; and work on the release and repatriation of convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi (ref A). Sawani set a deadline of June 2010 for completion of compensation payments to families of those killed at Abu Salim prison. Noting that demonstrations still take place at the prison site, he explained that QDF was working to obtain government permission to demolish the prison in order for resolution to be achieved. Similarly, he said that QDF wanted the government to be involved and do more to push forward QDF's efforts in Chad. QDF will establish a new charitable organization to lead its efforts to provide social services -- basic health services, education, clean water -- to the hundreds of Libyan families affected by Libya's involvement in the Chadian civil war (i.e., the families of Libyan soldiers who died for the cause). He stated that the GOL had designated an office within the Ministry of Defense to address the needs of the Libyan families, which he called corrupt and incompetent. Through the QDF affiliate "Demining Society," the Foundation also plans to continue to support demining efforts in Chad. Sawani noted that work had already been done in the valley of Ojanga and will continue in the Wadi Edoom valley.

4.(S/NF) Sawani was notably reticent in response to our inquiries about plans for QDF's annual youth rally. He said that Saif would not return to Libya to speak at the August 20 rally, as he was busy vacationing in London or Vienna (Sawani claimed not to know) and also was preoccupied with his new (undefined) role at the Center for Global Governance at the London School of Economics. [Note: Other reporting and Embassy political and economic contacts with independent relations to QDF have indicated that Saif will return to Libya on/around August 20. End Note.] Sawani agreed with local reports estimating that 100,000 youth are expected to attend the QDF youth rally. He confirmed that the rally will take place in Tripoli. The opening of youth day will also coincide with the launching of Saif's latest media channel - "Al Mutawasat/The Mediterranean," which will begin broadcasting from London August 20. Sawani mentioned that Saif may broadcast remarks via satellite, perhaps using his new television channel -- or TRIPOLI 00000678 002.2 OF 002 perhaps not -- to deliver his annual message to Libya's youth. He said the youth rally program would include distribution of gifts, such as computers, to attendees. When asked whether Saif would return for the 40th anniversary of his father's revolution, Sawani claimed not to know. He took the opportunity to emphasize that Saif had no intention of returning to political life.

5.(C) Sawani willingly commented on recent press reports that Saif was working to reform the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and had succeeded in urging them to adopt a more moderate doctrine. Sawani said that QDF had provided reading and reference material to LIFG members being held in Libyan detention facilities, in order to teach them more moderate views of Islam. He said that Saif's work with the LIFG, coupled with the Leader's political backing, had succeeded in reforming the LIFG platform. The group produced a 400-page doctrine stating its revised goals and outlining a more moderate Islamic philosophy. Sawani noted that QDF had facilitated meetings between LIFG members and well-respected Islamic scholars such as Yusuf al-Qardawi and Sheikh Ali Asalabi. Sawani noted that the LIFG in Libya claimed never to have had ties to Al Qaeda networks. He affirmed that he had read press reports from UK and Switzerland-based LIFG networks announcing a severance of ties to Al Qaeda, although he claimed not to have further insight into those decisions.

6.(C) Comment: Although Saif al-Islam has claimed time and again that he is a non-political figure and will remain outside of politics, his recent moves to reform the LIFG, secure Megrahi's release, and work to compensate victims of the Abu Salim prison riots all appear to be political overtures. His status as a non-governmental entity may benefit his chances for succession, as he would take after his father's role as extra-governmental "Leader" of the people's Jamahiriya, and may therefore be in his best interest. His humanitarian agenda also lends him a good platform for dealing with the West and building relations with reform-minded individuals within Libya. While Saif has been steadily withdrawing from the public scene since last year's youth rally (ref C), a confluence of high-profile events - including the Megrahi release, the August 20 youth rally and launch of his new satellite television station, and the September 1 anniversary of the revolution - could throw him back into the spotlight. End Comment. POLASCHIK

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