Cablegate: Muatassem Al-Qadhafi Asserts Anti-Libya Bias

DE RUEHTRO #0883/01 3061508
O P 021508Z NOV 09




SUBJECT: MUATASSEM AL-QADHAFI ASSERTS ANTI-LIBYA BIAS REF: A) TRIPOLI 876; B) TRIPOLI 722 TRIPOLI 00000883 001.2 OF 003 CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.(S/NF) Summary: The Ambassador reviewed the bilateral engagement agenda during a November 2 meeting with National Security Advisor (and Qadhafi son) Muatassem al-Qadhafi, who agreed on the need to overcome past problems in order to push engagement forward. While Muatassem laid out a list of complaints or "negative signals" from the U.S., including not being allowed to pitch a tent in New York for Muammar al-Qadhafi and the negative treatment accorded the party while in New York (media and denial of permission to move about), he expressed renewed interest in setting the stage for a future meeting between the elder Qadhafi and POTUS. The Ambassador emphasized that concrete steps on the ground -- including signing the 505 agreement and launching a political-military dialogue -- must be taken to pave the way for deeper engagement. The sensitive issues of the Swiss detainees and Abdel Basset al-Megrahi are contained septel. End Summary. A CONFUSION OF MILITARY AGREEMENTS

2.(S/NF) During a November 2 meeting with National Security Advisor (NSA) Muatassem al-Qadhafi, the Ambassador (accompanied by Pol/Econ chief, notetaker) reviewed the bilateral agenda, highlighting the clear willingness and intention of the U.S. to move ahead in the relationship. He pointed to the successful, recent signing of the highly-enriched uranium fuel transfer agreement as an example for other areas where we need to see progress, including in the sphere of military engagement. The Ambassador reiterated the need for the GOL to formally approve the 505 agreement in order to unlock training opportunities for the Libyans. Likewise, he explained again the steps that the GOL must take in order to complete five pending Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for C-130 related material and services. While Muatassem did not seem to understand where the 505 agreement stood within the Libyan bureaucracy ("Isn't that with the MFA?" he asked.), he expressed a desire to move forward with it. Nor did Muatassem reflect a clear understanding of the five government-to-government agreements, instead changing the subject to that of military equipment sales. He complained that the Libyans were being forced to purchase equipment from Russia because the USG had not approved the sale of U.S. equipment. While the Ambassador repeatedly separated the issues of the 505 agreement from that of the LOA's from that of the equipment sales, Muatassem seemed to confuse the three. "I do not understand the problem with the sales. We still have to take spare parts for the C-130's from the black market," he insisted. FORGING AHEAD AND MUATASSEM'S SIX COMPLAINTS

3.(S/NF) The NSA insisted that "we want steps on the ground" to prove that the U.S. wanted the relationship to move forward. The Ambassador reminded Muatassem of the requests he made during his April 2009 meeting with the Secretary for the creation of bilateral dialogues on Civil-Nuclear and Political-Military cooperation. He informed the NSA that the USG was prepared to discuss those initiatives but needed word from the GOL expressing its own readiness to do so.

4.(S/NF) Muatassem then laid out a series of complaints that he characterized as "negative signals" that the Libyan regime had picked up from the U.S., which in his estimation, seemed to be statements that the U.S. did not want to deepen engagement. First were the "failed opportunities" for a meeting between POTUS and the Libyan Leader on the margins of the July G-8 Summit in Italy and then in September at UNGA. Second, he protested the treatment of UN Permanent Representative Abdulrahman Shalgam by security officials at JFK Airport (Ref A). Third, he informed the Ambassador that he had received complaints from the Libyan Navy that a Libyan oil tanker was inspected under "special procedures" by the U.S. Coast Guard when entering the port of Houston, Texas. He noted that similar incidents had occurred "maybe five times" in the past and that the most recent complaint was registered approximately two weeks ago. He suspected that all Libyan ships raised "red flags" when attempting to dock in U.S. ports and insisted "this should not be the case."

5.(S/NF) The Ambassador assured Muatassem that the highest levels of the Departments of State and Homeland Security were investigating the Shalgam incident, informing him that senior State officials would soon meet with Libya's Ambassador to the U.S. to discuss the incident report and procedures that hopefully would help avoid the repeat of such incidents. TRIPOLI 00000883 002.2 OF 003 Likewise, he offered to research the charges the NSA raised regarding inspections of Libyan ships at U.S. ports.

6.(S/NF) Muatassem went on to complain that POTUS's September meeting with African Heads of State specifically from "Sub-Saharan Africa" was "racist" and particularly discriminatory against Libya. "We see it aimed at us because we are the head of the African Union," he said, insisting that Libya should have been invited to the meeting. The Ambassador argued against the logic of the Libyan charge, reminding Muatassem that "Sub-Saharan Africa" is a term used by the entire international community not only the United States. The logic was lost on Muatassem, who responded, "Africa is not divided; it is a single continent."

7.(S/NF) Muatassem's fifth complaint involved his failure to successfully set up a tent for his father's meetings during their September visit to New York and the negative treatment accorded the party while in New York, including negative media and security restrictions on movement. He stated that the Libyans could not believe the U.S. reaction to the tent, as it did not pose any sort of security threat. He claimed that he did not think pitching the tent in New York would be a problem. In fact, he thought he was respecting A/S Feltman's request by not attempting to pitch the tent in New Jersey (Ref B). Finally, Muatassem complained that the Italian Interior Minister had told him that the U.S. Ambassador to Rome had urged Italy not to send planes to participate in the September 1 anniversary of Qadhafi's 40th year in power.

8.(S/NF) The Ambassador reminded Muatassem of the trajectory of events leading to Qadhafi's visit to New York -- July and early August were positive, with the handshake between POTUS and the Libyan Leader in Italy and the launching of the Human Rights Dialogue; however, the hero's welcome that Libya extended to convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi poisoned the atmosphere by evoking deep American sensitivities. Arguing that Scotland, rather than Libya, should be blamed for Megrahi's release, Muatassem exclaimed, "What should we have done -- thrown him into the sea?!" He claimed that Megrahi's large Megaraha tribe had provided the welcome, not the GOL. He insisted that the issue with Megrahi was over now, since Libya had compensated the U.S. victims and Megrahi had been returned to Libya. "Let us close the shutter on this," he suggested. The Ambassador retorted that the matter was not that simple.


9.(S/NF) The Ambassador emphasized that the USG wanted to move beyond the events of the past to improve the relationship. He urged Muatassem not to buy into conspiracy theories that the USG wants to punish Libya in some way or, beyond that, to subvert the progress already achieved. Muatassem expressed his own commitment to moving the relationship forward. The Ambassador conveyed the need for better and more frequent communication between the Embassy and the NSC in order to maintain a clear picture of the other's intentions and to express comments or complaints that each side might have vis-`-vis the other. Muatassem suggested that a visit by POTUS, or at minimum, a meeting between POTUS and Muammar al-Qadhafi would move engagement forward. He noted that the Leader was expected to represent the African Union at the upcoming UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meeting in Rome but that he was unlikely to attend the UN Climate Change ministerial in Copenhagen. The Ambassador insisted that we needed to move ahead with the agreements on the ground and to establish a political-military dialogue as next steps. He also told Muatassem that major progress along the lines of what the NSA was proposing would also have to await the closure of the Megrahi case and a steady period of building trust and confidence.

10.(S/NF) Comment: While Muatassem did not seem to be in a listening mode, he did respond positively to the idea of moving forward on the bilateral agenda. His aim during the meeting seemed to be focused on his list of complaints -- particularly the tent issue, perhaps signaling that this was an area where he personally bore the brunt of the blame from his father. His -- as well as others'-- renewed interest in pursuing a meeting between POTUS and the elder Qadhafi reflects a lack of understanding of the current state of the relationship, as well as an apparent refusal to understand the impact on the relationship of Megrahi's return to Libya. It may also reflect Muatassem's goal to "achieve" something significant for his TRIPOLI 00000883 003.2 OF 003 father in light of the political roiling surrounding Saif al-Islam's apparent moving to the head of the succession line. We will continue to urge the Libyans to complete these action requests and to work with the Libyan NSC and other relevant actors in preparation of the launching of a political-military dialogue. End Comment. CRETZ

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