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Cablegate: Unconfirmed Report That Qadhafi Promotes Saif Al-Islam in "Secret" Meeting

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DE RUEHTRO #0805/01 2801638
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5346
INFO RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1518
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 0851
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 0968
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 0911
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0088
RUEHUM/AMEMBASSY ULAANBAATAR 0001
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5893

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000805

NOFORN SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/7/2019

TAGS: PGOV KPAO LY

SUBJECT: UNCONFIRMED REPORT THAT QADHAFI PROMOTES SAIF AL-ISLAM IN "SECRET" MEETING REF: A. TRIPOLI 64 B. TRIPOLI 40 C. TRIPOLI 359 Derived from: DSCG 05-1, B,D

1.(C) Summary: Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Free Officers Movement, Libyan officials and various international delegations gathered October 5-7 in the southern Libyan oasis town of Sebha. In nationally televised October 5 comments from the event, Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi called for an October 6 "secret" meeting among senior Libyan officials to discuss "internal matters," an effort perhaps to belie rumored criticism that, in contrast to previous years, no domestic policy address was delivered during Libya's recent September 1 festivities. Independent website Libya al-Youm, citing contacts who allegedly were in attendance at the October 6 meeting, reported that al-Qadhafi praised his second son Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, and called on the People's Congresses to create a non-term limited governmental role for him. If true, this report -- the only account yet from the closed October 6 meeting -- may signal that, after a rollercoaster year, Saif al-Islam will once again assume the mantle of heir apparent. It remains to be seen whether the creation of a formal governmental role for Saif al-Islam will become a reality, or simply join the long list of other ambitious, much-heralded, and as-yet-unrealized initiatives such as wealth distribution, government restructuring, and major cabinet shake-ups. End Summary.

LIBYA AL-YOUM REPORTS THAT MUAMMAR WANTS SAIF TO GET A FORMAL JOB

2.(C) During a televised October 5 speech in Sebha marking the 50th anniversary of the Free Officers Movement, Muammar al-Qadhafi called for a "secret" October 6 meeting among Libyan officials to discuss domestic affairs. While some international press reports mentioned the planned "secret" meeting, the press blackout in Libya has been nearly total, aided by Sebha's remote location approximately 400 miles south of Tripoli. Opposition-leaning news website Libya al-Youm, the only press outlet to yet discuss the event, posted an article October 7 on the meeting. Citing unnamed sources who allegedly were in attendance, the article quotes Qadhafi as lauding his second son, Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, as a man who is "loyal and loves Libya," and noting that his current lack of a formal position has created "some problems." The Libyan leader then called on the members of the People's Congresses to create a position for Saif al-Islam outside of the General People's Committee (GPC) secretariat. The elder Qadhafi reportedly argued that the usual four-year term of the GPC would not permit his son sufficient time to execute programs "in the interest of the Libya of tomorrow." (Note: It is unlikely that Saif al-Islam was present at the meeting. Russian diplomats reported he was in eastern Russia in early October for a hunting trip and press reports indicate he visited Mongolia on or around October 5.End note).

"SECRET" MEETING ECHOES RUMORS IN DECEMBER...

3.(C//NF) Libya al-Youm's unverified reports and Qadhafi's request for a press-free meeting are reminiscent of similar events in December 2008 (ref A). At that time, following a televised speech to key advisors, Qadhafi asked that cameras and recording equipment be shut off and told the assembled that Libya was entering a "new political period" and would hold elections for some key offices "soon". Drafts of a constitution seen then by well-connected UN contacts included a new, non-term limited position with broad executive powers as the head of a 100-person "Senate" that was widely viewed as a vehicle for Saif al-Islam to take a formal role within the government. However, the constitution was subsequently removed from the agenda of March's General People's Congress session (ref B) -- the beginning of a six-month slide in Saif al-Islam's prominence that saw his media group nationalized (ref C) and his younger brother National Security Advisor Muatassim al-Qadhafi, not Saif al-Islam, accompany his father to the United Nations in September.

~BUT DIPLOMATIC CORPS GIVEN NO DETAILS

4.(C) Joining the rest of the diplomatic corps, the CDA was shuttled to Sebha on October 7 to attend the closing of the three-day festival. Senior Libya officials including Foreign Minister Musa Kusa and Director of Military Intelligence Abdulla Sannusi have reportedly been in the oasis town since October 4, and various Arab and African delegations also participated. Libyan officials demonstrated tell-tale signs that Qadhafi would address the assembled: cell phones were confiscated and hurried TRIPOLI 00000805 002 OF 002 arrangements were made in the hall where an Extraordinary Session of the General People's Congress had been convened to designate various locations from al-Qadhafi's life as national historic sites. However, Qadhafi never showed up, and other government officials have not yet divulged the content of the October 6 meeting.

COMMENT

5.(C) The closed October 6 meeting and Libya al-Youm's report have renewed chatter in Tripoli that Saif al-Islam is once again ascendant and still the heir apparent. Many Libyans expected an announcement in September that Qadhafi pere would take on a more international role and that Saif al-Islam would make a strong return to domestic politics -- a view bolstered by images of Saif al-Islam hugging Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi upon his August 20 arrival in Tripoli. If Libya al-Youm's report is confirmed, it remains to be seen whether the creation of a formal governmental role for Saif al-Islam will become reality, or simply join other ambitious, much-heralded, and as-yet-unrealized initiatives such as wealth distribution, government restructuring, and major cabinet shake-ups. POLASCHIK

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