Cablegate: Isn/Ctr Visit: Libya Moves Forward On Scientist Engagement Programs
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0886/01 3071438
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 031438Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5442
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY 0076
RUEHII/VIENNA IAEA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0646
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5991
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 TRIPOLI 000886
STATE FOR NEA/MAG AND ISN/CTR K. INSLEY AND DA BROWN; LONDON AND PARIS FOR NEA WATCHERS E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/3/2019
TAGS: KNNP AORC IAEA PGOV LY IT
SUBJECT: ISN/CTR VISIT: LIBYA MOVES FORWARD ON SCIENTIST ENGAGEMENT PROGRAMS REF: A) TRIPOLI 437, B) TRIPOLI 212, C) TRIPOLI 436, D) TRIPOLI 482, E) TRIPOLI 476, F) TRIPOLI 490, G) TRIPOLI 795 TRIPOLI 00000886 001.2 OF 004
CLASSIFIED BY: Joan Polaschik, DCM, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, U.S. Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (S/NF) Summary: The Libyan government warmly greeted the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation's Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction (ISN/CTR), team leader Kathryn Insley and program manager D.A. Brown, on ISN/CTR's first official trip to Libya since November 2008. This visit was a critical step in re-establishing a strong rapport between ISN/CTR staff and their Libyan interlocutors, and lead GOL contact Dr. Ali Gashut indicated that previous visa problems that had plagued the project had been "solved." ISN/CTR held meetings with officials of the Tripoli Medical Center (TMC) to discuss the Regional Nuclear Medicine Center (NMC) and next steps for developing the Architectural and Engineering (A&E) design and model for the NMC. The Libyan Government agreed to move ahead on this project on a cost-sharing basis, a reversal of the Libyans' previous position. TMC management also reported rooms had been allocated to establish a Telemedicine Center, linking Libyan specialists to their counterparts overseas, and the next step would be to install equipment with the help of experts from Harvard's Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology. ISN/CTR toured the desalination pilot project site at Tajura Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) where equipment will be installed by engineers from Sandia National Laboratory. The Director of TNRC pledged to provide a list to ISN/CTR of current issues and requests for future engagement under the Sister Laboratory/Stack Monitoring Project. Insley and Brown also held meetings at the Italian Embassy to explore possible collaboration in scientist engagement. End summary.
WHO'S WHO? OUR MAIN INTERLOCUTORS ON NUCLEAR AND ALTERNATIVE ENERGY ISSUES
2. (C) The USG's primary Libyan interlocutor on all nuclear and alternative energy issues with a strictly research component is Dr. Ali Gashut, Director of the Libyan Atomic Energy Establishment (LAEE). As outlined in Ref A, Gashut reports directly to Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi. The LAEE includes three operational/research divisions: the TNRC (previously known as the Renewable Energies and Water Desalination Research Center --REWDRC-- and Nuclear Research Center) headed by Engineer Ahmed al-Habrush, whose deputy is El Mahdi Ghallab; the Alternative Energy Research Center, headed by Dr. Salem Ghurbal; and Chemical Engineering (including the Petrochemical Institute), headed by Dr. Husein Mansour. As for Ghurbal, he is reportedly not well, perhaps suffering from diabetes, and his deputy, Dr. Mohammed Mussa, may take on a greater role in managing the Alternative Energy Research Center in the future. One of ISN/CTR's main projects, the Desalination Pilot Project, falls under the Desalination and Water Treatment Research Department, headed by Dr. Abdulnaser Ali Alsadawi, who reports to al-Habrush. Another familiar face in Libyan scientific circles is Dr. Mohammed Ennami, who is Gashut's deputy, and who was formerly science advisor to the now-Secretary for Infrastructure Matuq Matuq (after the latter's previous General People's Committee for Manpower was dissolved in March in the government reconfiguration--see Ref B). While Ennami is now technically Gashut's subordinate, due to his close connections to Matuq, a regime insider, we can surmise he may wield more power than Gashut in a de facto sense. Meanwhile, the staff at the TMC is ISN/CTR's primary interlocutor in the development of the NMC. In particular, Dr. Omran Shammam (educated at Ohio State University) has been steadfast in his support and commitment to this project. Dr. Omran Assatel (PhD in Physics, Oregon State University) is also key to the NMC project. Both participated directly in this visit.
3. (C) On October 19, in a one-on-one meeting with ISN/CTR, Gashut reiterated the need for all initial communication between the U.S. side and the Libyans to go through him. He said, "otherwise, things get too confusing," especially when it comes to arranging visits and tracking visa approvals through the Libyan bureaucracy. But, Gashut said the visa problem was "solved now." ISN/CTR pressed for more clarity on the visa issue, and Gashut implied that he now has a system in place whereby he can communicate directly with Libyan protocol on visa issuance.
MOVING FORWARD ON THE REGIONAL NUCLEAR MEDICINE CENTER
4. (C) Gashut accepted moving ahead on the Regional Nuclear Medicine Center (NMC) on a bilateral partnership basis (i.e. cost-sharing), in an apparent reversal of his previous stance that ISN/CTR commit to fully funding construction of the NMC, TRIPOLI 00000886 002.2 OF 004 He agreed to provide a quick-turnaround written concurrence similar to a letter provided by ISN/CTR, which will then pave the way for ISN/CTR's development of the NMC A&E Design. In an October 18 meeting with ISN/CTR, Dr. Omran Shammam offered comments on the draft strategic plan for the NMC, several of which were resolved during the meeting. Shammam would like to meet again with the strategic plan development experts from Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital concerning the issue of average examination times but overall, he approved the draft strategic plan without further comment. ISN/CTR will follow-up with Dr. Giles Boland (Harvard/Mass General) to schedule a visit to Libya. Shammam also indicated that a site had been selected for the NMC. The site is 10,000 square meters in size, located near the Tripoli International Airport, and will therefore be accessible to travelers from outside of Tripoli as well as from neighboring countries. Shammam offered to show the site to ISN/CTR during a future visit. Shammam emphasized Libya's desire for all staff in the proposed NMC to be trained in the U.S. or by Americans. In addition, Gashut noted the NMC would be more than just a building, but a model of American excellence equipped to the highest American standards. He underscored the need to enforce U.S. labor standards, such as punctuality, clear reporting systems, and accountability -- values which, according to Gashut, are abundantly lacking in the current Libyan healthcare system.
5. (C) In addition to the NMC, ISN/CTR is working with TMC to establish a Telemedicine Center that will enable specialists in Libya to consult with their counterparts in the U.S. and other countries around the world. Shammam reported that rooms have been allocated at the TMC for the Telemedicine Center, equipment has been approved for the project, and Shamman is now ready for experts from Harvard's Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT), funded through ISN/CTR, to begin installation. In terms of more general training needs, Shammam asked for an oncologist and radiotherapist to visit Libya in order to conduct training. During the course of discussions on the NMC, Shammam also provided a tour of TMC's new diagnostic wing which, according to Shammam, had been built in under one year and, along with several other diagnostic rooms, currently houses a state-of-the-art Cyclotron which synthesizes the Fluorine-18 isotope to make fluordeoxyglucose for use in a Positron Emission Tomography (PET-CT) medical imaging device. According to Shamman, TMC's PET-CT, which is equipped with an array of mood, lighting, scenery and music selections to help patients relax during treatment, is only the second of its kind in use worldwide. The new wing measures 1,200 square meters and cost 32 million dinars (approximately $26 million dollars) to construct, of which half was spent on new equipment. When pressed for further details on the budget, Shammam said it was simply a line item that appeared in TMC's budget, and TMC was directed to spend it on this new wing. A Libyan construction firm, al-Akaria Construction Company, was selected to build the wing, and an Italian sub-contractor, Prisma, carried out the specialized medical construction. According to Shammam, the new wing does not yet have dedicated staff. He indicated there is a lack of trained technicians and also expressed interest in additional training from the U.S. side.
EQUIPMENT IN PLACE FOR DESALINATION PILOT PROJECT
6. (C) On October 19, ISN/CTR met Dr. Abdulnaser Ali Alsadawi, the Head of the Desalination and Water Treatment Research Department at TNRC. They discussed the Desalination Pilot Project, under which experts from Sandia National Laboratory (SNL) will work with their Libyan counterparts to install desalination equipment at the pilot facility in Tajura. Alsadawi took them on a tour of the pilot project site, which is next to the holding tanks for an existing desalination plant (which provides potable water to TNRC). The equipment for the pilot project is housed in three special shipping containers that are on a raised platform. Alsadawi said some modifications to the platform were needed and these would be completed in the next two weeks. Ideally, two experts from SNL will travel to Libya in early November to begin connecting the equipment, pending visa issuance. [Note: In a separate meeting, Gashut pledged to assist with visa approvals for a two week visit by the SNL experts and DA Brown, the ISN/CTR Libya program manager. End note.] Alsadawi also gave ISN/CTR a tour of the laboratory space at TNRC which will be used as a water quality laboratory to support the desalination pilot project. All the equipment for the new water quality laboratory is still in boxes, but it appears that all equipment has arrived. Perishable reagents appear to be appropriately stored in refrigerators. Alsadawi TRIPOLI 00000886 003.2 OF 004 noted that one of the incubators that had been unpacked was missing components and essentially, was unusable. [Note: Shipments to Libya of technical equipment, chemicals, and reagents have been plagued with delays and difficult to confirm. Alsadawi stated that Libyan customs officials are not extremely cooperative with TNRC. According to Alsadawi, storage space is very limited at the port and stringent rules apply unilaterally to all shipments, including a requirement to auction all shipments that have not cleared customs within ninety days. Alsadawi said that TNRC had to request very high-level intervention to get a recent equipment shipment released after it had been listed for auction. End note.]
SISTER LABORATORY/STACK MONITORING ACTIVITIES
7. (C) In 2005, the International Nuclear Safeguards and Engagement Program (INSEP) signed a "Sister Laboratory" Arrangement with the former National Board of Research and Development (NBRD), which is now TNRC. Under this arrangement, INSEP initiated five Action Sheets, of which three are nearly complete, and further visits are needed to close out or restart those that have stalled. Current plans call for a visit to pursue: Action Sheet 4 - Stack Monitoring System, Action Sheet 2 - Radiation Protection Train-the-trainer capability, Action Sheet 5 - Radioactive Waste Tracking Database, and Action Sheet 1 - Cleanroom Assistance. [Note: A team from NNSA was due to visit Tripoli in mid-June but has not received visas. End note.] The head of TNRC, al-Habrush, said he would send a letter to ISN/CTR, via Gashut, providing a list of current issues and requests for future engagement on the Sister Lab program. His deputy, Ghallab, commented that there had been "good momentum" on the U.S.-Libya science program but that about a year ago, "everything stopped." When ISN/CTR pointed out that several U.S. visitors had tried to come to Libya, but they did not receive visas (until this visit), al-Habrush acknowledged that there had been "some sort of problem with visas," but was unaware of the three prior ISN/CTR attempts to obtain visas. He noted that, "I, myself, was supposed to go to the United Nations in New York, but never got a visa" last April.
WATER RESOURCES MODELING
8. (C) Under a program with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), U.S. experts will train Libyans in how to use a specialized software program to run various scenarios for water resource management. Gashut asked ISN/CTR for more information about the data necessary from the Great Manmade River Project to implement the water quality monitoring and modeling program. He also had questions on the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) required by LLNL in order to safeguard intellectual property rights. ISN/CTR said they would follow-up with LLNL in order to clarify their needs for real data and to discuss their plans to return to Libya to demonstrate the model. Issues concerning the NDA will also need to be resolved. [Note: In an October 22 meeting, Omar Salem, Chairman of the Libyan General Water Authority, told Econoff that Gashut had written to him to say that the U.S. experts would return to Libya once the data needs were clarified. Salem looked forward to the training, which will involve Libyan specialists from his organization. End note.]
VIRTUAL SCIENCE LIBRARY
9. (C) When asked about the status of the proposed Virtual Science Library, Gashut said he had followed up on his discussions on this project during his April meeting with ISN/CTR in Washington, DC, by passing the proposal to the General People's Committee for Education (Ministry of Education-equivalent). He promised to update ISN/CTR as soon as he received a reply from the Education officials.
VIEWPOINT OF THE ITALIAN EMBASSY
10. (S/NF) ISN/CTR met with xxxxxxxxxxxx at the Italian Embassy to explore possible collaboration in Libya, following the example of Iraq, where the Italians are working with us on scientist engagement projects. xxxxxxxxxxxx said that Italy had not been involved in the nuclear scientist redirection efforts in Libya but was working with them on converting the former biological weapons factory to a pharmaceutical plant. The plan is for the pharmaceutical plant to produce medicines for treating HIV/AIDS for export to sub-Saharan Africa. He noted the Libyans did not seem very concerned with meeting this goal, but instead thought TRIPOLI 00000886 004.2 OF 004 Italy and other countries should be pleased that at least the factory was not being used for its former purpose (developing biological weapons). Ensuring Libya lives up to its commitments to destroy the stockpiles of chemical weapons is another concern of Italy, particularly given Libya's geographic proximity. In xxxxxxxxxxxx's view, the Libyans are stalling on the destruction of the stockpiles in order to keep this "as a bargaining chip" (Refs F, G). More broadly, in terms of the medical system in Libya, xxxxxxxxxxxx noted around 200 Libyan doctors have been trained in Italy, and they had established a good network between the Libyan and Italian medical schools. He thought this might be a good resource for U.S.-based medical trainers to tap into.
11.(S/NF) Comment: As the success of many of our programs in Libya hinges on personal relationships, this recent visit was a critical step in establishing a strong rapport between ISN/CTR staff and their Libyan interlocutors. Our main point of contact for Libyan scientist engagement, Dr. Ali Gashut, made a real effort to welcome Kate Insley and DA Brown, as evidenced by his participation in their meetings. He also personally invited them to a traditional Libyan dinner and even brought along his teenage son, transparently underscoring the importance of cultivating interpersonal relationships in Libyan cultural context. It is also important to note that Libya is a relatively small country (population around 6 million), and the cadre of Libya's US-trained scientists is also small. Most of Libya's US-trained scientists were educated in the U.S. before sanctions, and as they are now in their 50's and 60's and will retire soon, we only have about 5-10 years more to pursue joint projects with this group of people. Due to Libya's isolation during the past few decades as well as a previous ban on teaching English, the current generation of young professionals has had little exposure to Western work-styles and has limited facility in English language. The ISN/CTR programs present an excellent opportunity to address this generation gap. End comment.
12. (C) ISN/CTR has cleared this cable. CRETZ