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Cablegate: Libyan Mfa Requests Diplomatic Clearance for Qadhafi's Plane, Takes Steps to Demonstrate Commitment to Relationship

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PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0695/01 2391529
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 271529Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5200
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1144
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0816
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0585
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0227
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5744

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000695

SIPDIS DEPT FOR NEA/MAG E.O. 12958: DECL: 8/27/2029

TAGS: PREL PGOV OVIP ABLD CVIS LY

SUBJECT: LIBYAN MFA REQUESTS DIPLOMATIC CLEARANCE FOR QADHAFI'S PLANE, TAKES STEPS TO DEMONSTRATE COMMITMENT TO RELATIONSHIP REF: TRIPOLI 692 TRIPOLI 00000695 001.2 OF 002

CLASSIFIED BY: Joan Polaschik, CDA, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (U) This is an action request; see para 8.

2. (S) Summary: MFA A/S-equivalent Fituri convoked CDA August 27 to formally request that Muammar al-Qadhafi's Ifriqiyah Airways plane be granted full diplomatic clearance -- including privileges and immunities normally granted a head of state -- for Qadhafi's trip to the UNGA. CDA noted that this was not the only unresolved issue surrounding the trip, and urged the Libyan Government to find an appropriate solution to the Englewood house controversy and to ensure that Lockerbie bomber Megrahi was not featured in the September 1 festivities. Fituri said the MFA understood these issues and was working to ensure Qadhafi's inner circle did as well. Fituri also briefed CDA on GOL plans to demonstrate its commitment to the bilateral relationship: payment for the seven USG properties in Tripoli; approval of the uranium transfer agreement; approval of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement; approval of the Section 505 Agreement; progress on the visas working group; and approval of land to build a New Embassy Compound. We have seen progress on some of these issues in recent days. While it is reassuring that the MFA understands the negative impact of Megrahi's reception and is actively working to address the damage, Fituri also seemed painfully aware that Qadhafi's personal whims could scuttle the MFA's efforts. He seemed to want quick resolution of the Ifriqiyah plane issue for this reason, and also emphasized that a U.S. presence on September 1 would be an important sign of our continued commitment to the relationship . End summary.

QADHAFI'S PLANE

3. (SBU) MFA A/S-equivalent for the Americas Ahmed Fituri convoked CDA August 27 to deliver a diplomatic note formally requesting that Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi's Ifriqiyah Airways plane be granted full diplomatic clearance -- including privileges and immunities -- for Qadhafi's upcoming trip to New York for the UNGA. Citing Libyan Ambassador Aujali's August 25 meeting with Department officials, Fituri said the Libyan Government is concerned that Ifriqiyah is not registered with U.S. civil aviation authorities. The Libyan Government, Fituri said, believes that the Ifriqiyah plane needs full diplomatic privileges and immunities, and should have "the same status as any other head of state." Charge promised to convey the message to Washington. (Informal embassy translation of the note was emailed to NEA/MAG.)

ENGLEWOOD HOUSE

4. (S) CDA noted that the Ifriqiyah plane was not the only unresolved issue surrounding Qadhafi's trip to New York. As NEA A/S Feltman had discussed with FM Kusa, we also hoped the Libyan Government would work to manage the controversy surrounding Qadhafi's plans to stay at the Libyan Perm Rep's residence in Englewood, New Jersey. Fituri said that Kusa and the MFA understand the problems posed by the Englewood house and are working to make sure that they also are understood by the Leader's inner circle. Fituri thought the Perm Rep's New York residence could be a good option, but also seemed to be unaware of Qadhafi's requirement to stay in ground-floor accommodations, a point Protocol Chief Mismari shared with us yesterday (reftel).

REPAIRING THE DAMAGE

5. (C) Asking MFA Americas Director Matari to leave the room, Fituri then said that he had met one-on-one with FM Kusa for several hours on August 26, under orders to quickly take concrete steps that could demonstrate the Libyans' desire to keep the U.S. relationship moving in the right direction. Fituri pulled out a confidential briefing paper and walked CDA through the following steps: - Payment for the seven USG properties in Tripoli. (Note: This is a long-standing issue; the GOL had promised to provide payment earlier this year. MGT Officer was called to a 1:00 pm meeting with the Land Registry Office and is reporting details septel.) - Approval and implementation of the HEU-LEU transfer agreement. Fituri said Dr. Gashut and his team at the Tajura Nuclear Center are fully authorized to finish the negotiations and initial the document. Fituri noted that the Libyans have approved and signed the Russian agreement as well, and that is now being reviewed by Moscow. Fituri commented that "It is TRIPOLI 00000695 002.2 OF 002 extremely important that we get this done, particularly with the September 24 UNSC session on nonproliferation." - Approval and signature of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). (Note: Post has transmitted the latest Libyan edits to USTR.) - Approval of the Section 505 End-user Agreement. While Fituri insists that the end-user agreement has been "approved," he acknowledged today that it is stuck in the Libyan bureaucracy. Fituri said that, following his meeting with CODEL McCain, Muatassim Al-Qadhafi had ordered the MOD to gin up the necessary paperwork. Although the MOD took prompt action, the MFA was required to send the dip note back to Muatassim for final approval, where it has languished for at least one week. - Visas working group. The MFA has instructed its consular department to hold a meeting on visa reciprocity arrangements with the Embassy as soon as possible. - Land for a New Embassy Compound (NEC). Although the MFA included this on the list, Fituri did not anticipate progress on the issue. Fituri said that when he brought up the NEC with Kusa, Kusa told him: "You were in the meeting between Clinton and Muatassim, right? Muatassim has discussed this with his father." Fituri then commented with a shrug, "This is a father-son issue."

6. (S) CDA underscored that, while we welcomed this progress and shared the Libyan Government's desire to keep the relationship moving forward, Megrahi's reception in Libya was a serious problem. It is vitally important that the Libyan Government take appropriate steps to manage this issue. Charge reiterated that the U.S. needs an appropriate resolution of the Englewood house issue, and also needs to ensure that Megrahi will be neither a guest at nor a featured theme at the September 1 festivities. CDA noted that the Embassy had seen the banners around Green Square lauding Megrahi as a hero and added that, even if Megrahi were not present for the festivities, we would object to rhetoric honoring him.

U.S. PRESENCE IMPORTANT ON SEPTEMBER 1

7. (C) Fituri said he understood our views and that the MFA was working to ensure the September 1 celebrations were not a problem for the bilateral relationship. He also said it was very important, from the MFA's perspective, to have a U.S. presence at the September 1 celebration. "Your absence would be problematic," Fituri emphasized. Stressing that no decisions had been made regarding U.S. representation, CDA countered that it would be still more problematic if the U.S. had to walk out of the ceremonies during a speech praising Megrahi. Fituri nodded in agreement, and added that although the MFA recognized that high-level representation was not likely, the presence of the CDA at the September 1 event would an important sign of our commitment to the relationship.

COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST

8. (C) Comment and Action Request: FM Kusa and his like-minded colleagues at the MFA clearly understand the negative impact that Megrahi's warm reception in Libya has had on the bilateral relationship. It is important that they are working to manage the impact and, if they can deliver on the agenda laid out in para 5 (which reflects the agenda laid out in NEA A/S Feltman's July 26 meeting with Kusa), this will be a reassuring sign of the Libyan Government's commitment to maintaining our improved relationship. We have seen some progress on these issues in recent days. Yet the possibility remains that the personal whims of Libya's very unpredictable leader could scuttle the efforts of the pro-engagement camp. Fituri seemed painfully aware of this reality and extremely anxious to head off any potential new controversies through quick resolution of the Ifriqiyah plane issue. Department's guidance on this issue is requested. POLASCHIK

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