Cablegate: Libyan Officials "Disappointed" with Megrahi Reception,
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0689/01 2371517
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P R 251517Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5189
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1136
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0808
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0577
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5733
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000689
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND EUR/WE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 8/25/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV UK LY
SUBJECT: LIBYAN OFFICIALS "DISAPPOINTED" WITH MEGRAHI RECEPTION,
WORKING BEHIND SCENES TO PREVENT SEPTEMBER 1 REPEAT REF: TRIPOLI 686 TRIPOLI 00000689 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) Summary: Libya Protocol Chief (and Qadhafi confidante) Nuri al-Mismari told A/DCM August 24 that FM Musa Kusa, A/S-equivalent for Europe Abdulati al-Obeidi and Qadhafi's Security Chief Izzedine al-Hinshiri agreed that Abdel Bassett al-Megrahi's high-profile reception in Libya had been a "big mistake" and had met the same day to discuss the ramifications. According to Mismari, Megrahi is not on the "seating chart" for the September 1 anniversary of Qadhafi's coup. Mismari pledged to work within Libyan Government channels to ensure this remains the case. Obeidi had a similar conversation with the UK Ambassador August 24, expressing surprise at Megrahi's reception and agreeing that it is "important to avoid anything that makes the situation worse." Based on a conversation between Saif al-Islam and "someone in London," the UK Ambassador believes he has "fairly strong" assurances that Megrahi will not be present at the September 1 festivities. Nevertheless, the UK Ambassador acknowledged that only Muammar al-Qadhafi would make the final decision on Megrahi's participation. We share his view. End summary.
CHIEF OF PROTOCOL DISAPPOINTED WITH MEGRAHI RECEPTION
2.(C) During an August 24 meeting with A/DCM to discuss visa issues, Nuri al-Mismari, the chief of Libyan Protocol (a ministerial-level position) and a close advisor to Qadafhi, launched into an unprompted 15-minute lament about "the trouble" resulting from Megrahi's release. Literally wringing his hands, Mismari noted that he "strongly disagreed" with Megrahi's reception in Libya and stressed that "if I had been here rather than traveling, this would have been handled differently." Commenting that he had just come from a 1.5 hour long interagency meeting on the topic of Megrahi, Mismari said that he, FM Musa Kusa, A/S-equivalent for European Affairs Abdulati al-Obeidi and former Minister of Interior and current head of Qadafhi's security Izzedine al-Hinshiri were all in agreement that Megrahi's reception had been a "big mistake," and were concerned about the international ramifications for Libya. Sighing deeply, Mismari mused that during his upcoming trip to New York for the UN General Assembly session, Qadafhi "could have had meetings with President Obama and many Congressmen, but now, I know that is impossible."
3.(C) A/DCM highlighted the negative USG reaction to Megrahi's release, reiterating the White House and Secretary's comments. Underscoring the President's public remarks about house arrest, she said Megrahi's presence at any upcoming September 1 celebrations would be highly problematic. Mismari, nodding in agreement opined, "Megrahi is a sick man, and it would be best if he was particularly sick, and bedridden, on September 1." He noted that he had reviewed the September 1 "seating chart" earlier in the day, and that Megrahi's name was not on it. Mismari said he did not know Megrahi well, and so did not feel he could personally reach out to him, but pledged to contact both Head of Military Intelligence Abdullah Sanussi, who he asserted is from the same tribal confederation as Megrahi, as well as another unnamed MFA official who Megrahi's relative: "I will tell them to ask Megrahi not to request an invitation to any September 1 events, and that if he does receive an invite, for the good of the country, he must make the sacrifice and not attend." A/DCM inquired if recent Libyan press reports that Megrahi may receive a medal of honor from the Libyan People's Congress were correct (reftel). Mismari replied that he had not heard of any such plans, but grimacing and rolling his eyes upwards in an apparent reference to Qadafhi, remarked that "anything can happen, although inshallah, it will not."
SIMILAR MESSAGE FROM OBEIDI TO THE UK
4.(C) UK Ambassador Vincent Fean reported that he had a similar conversation with Obeidi on August 24. Fean had met with Obeidi on instructions from London, to express the UK's disappointment at Megrahi's reception and to urge the Libyan Government to avoid any further public activity for Megrahi. Fean said that Obeidi made no effort to defend Megrahi's reception but said that he and Foreign Minister Musa Kusa had been "surprised" by the scene at the airport. Obeidi told the UK Ambassador that "enough is enough; it is important to avoid anything that will make the situation worse." Obeidi promised to convey this message to higher-level officials.
5.(C) Fean said the UK has "fairly strong" assurances that Megrahi will not be present at the September 1 festivities marking the 40th anniversary of Qadhafi's coup. Both Prime Minister Al Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi and Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi TRIPOLI 00000689 002.2 OF 002 had separately provided these assurances to the British Government: Al Bagdadi in response to UK PM Brown's letter to Qadhafi, and Saif al-Islam in a telephone conversation with "someone in London." Fean said that Saif al-Islam's pledge had been somewhat convoluted, as Saif al-Islam said simply: "If we need to say Megrahi will not be there, we will not contradict that." When pressed, Fean acknowledged that Al Baghdadi's assurances might also be less than ironclad, as he made them in the same conversation in which he had pledged that only Megrahi's family would greet him at the airport, a promise that clearly had not been kept. Fean also acknowledged that only Muammar al-Qadhafi would make the final decision on Megrahi's participation.
6.(C) Comment: Mismari, Kusa, Obeidi, and other officials who favor continued engagement with the West are savvy operators who fully appreciate the damage caused by Megrahi's high-profile reception. It is good to know that they are working to mitigate the effects and to prevent any further inappropriate gestures by the Libyan Government. We believe it would be useful to share with Kusa and his deputy Ahmed Fituri a frank assessment of current sentiment in the U.S., as well as the risks to continued engagement if Megrahi is feted on September 1. Yet while Kusa, Mismari and others play key advisory roles, only one man - Muammar al-Qadhafi - will make the decision on Megrahi's role on September 1.End Comment. POLASCHIK