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Cablegate: Gse Shuts Down Embassy Asmara Iftar

VZCZCXRO2529
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHAE #0298 2391450
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271450Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASMARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0468
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1700
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1876
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUMICEA/JICCENT MACDILL AFB FL
RHRMDAB/COMUSNAVCENT
RUEPADJ/CJTF-HOA J2X CAMP LEMONIER DJ
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS ASMARA 000298

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/E, DS/IP/AF, DS/TIA/ITA, AF/E
LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KPAO ASEC ER
SUBJECT: GSE SHUTS DOWN EMBASSY ASMARA IFTAR

REF: ASMARA 293

1. (SBU) The Eritrean government (GSE) Office of Protocol
sent a note verbale on August 27 expressly forbidding the
embassy from hosting a planned Iftar meal and showing the
film "Islam in America." The note verbale was in response to
the embassy's official protest of the August 20th incident
which resulted in the assault of a U.S diplomat (reftel) by
agents of the Eritrean National Security Organization (ENSO).
The note verbale reads, in part:

"the incident mentioned in the Diplomatic Note is under
serious review by the relevant authorities... In the
circumstances, the presentation to be followed by the Iftar
Meal and all other public meetings will not be permitted
until the review is finalized."

2. (SBU) In recent months, the ambassador has made four
attempts to call on the Chief of the Office of Protocol,
Mohammed Osman Saad, all of which have been ignored.
Immediately following the receipt of the abovementioned note
verbale, post sent over a dip note saying ambassador and
A/DCM would arrive at the protocol chief's office at 1600 hrs
to discuss this issue. After arriving at MFA, nobody was
present except for one low-level MFA officer. Despite
protestations from this MFA officer, ambassador and A/DCM sat
on a sofa in the lobby for one hour waiting for someone with
authority to arrive to talk. The MFA officer stated he would
attempt to make an appointment for the ambassador and that
this issue could be solved through communication, which the
ambassador stated was exactly the point he was trying to
accomplish by coming directly to MFA. While driving back to
the embassy, ambassador and A/DCM stopped at the American
Center which had 6 police officers, the police Colonel in
charge of protection for all diplomatic facilities, a
low-level police supervisor, and two plainclothes ENSO agents
in front of it. Ambassador explained that Post had canceled
the planned film and Iftar celebration per MFA's note verbale.

3. (SBU) Post Comments: Time will tell whether the GSE will
actually offer an opportunity to talk and resolve this
situation, as well as other bilateral impediments, or whether
this is the continued squeeze by the GSE to curtail post
operations and attempts at outreach to the Eritrean people.


MCMULLEN

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