Cablegate: Libya Response: Follow Up On Transparency Measures for the Annual Chemical Weapons Convention Conference
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SIPDIS STATE FOR NEA/MAG AND ISN/CB (TOM FERGUSON); STATE PLEASE PASS TO COMMERCE (NATE MASON) E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2019
TAGS: PARM PREL CWC OPCW LY
SUBJECT: LIBYA RESPONSE: FOLLOW UP ON TRANSPARENCY MEASURES FOR THE ANNUAL CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION CONFERENCE REF: A) State 115619; B) Tripoli 795 TRIPOLI 00000933 001.2 OF 002
CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(C) Summary: Pol/Econ chief delivered ref A demarche to Dr. Ahmed Hesnawy, head of Libya's chemical weapons destruction program, November 18. Hesnawy thanked the USG for its support for Libya's Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) extension and amendment requests during the October 12 Executive Council session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) (Ref B). He provided an update on Libya's conversion and destruction programs, reporting that he expected completion of the Rabta conversion to be done on schedule, by the end of December. "Off the record," he confided that he was considering offering the Italian SIPSA company, with which he has been in negotiations for over a year, only part of the contract for the design and construction of the destruction facility, with the other part to be awarded to Libyan contractors. Hesnawy insisted that he had no problems answering U.S. and EU calls for program transparency, as he was doing everything possible to fulfill Libya's CWC commitments. Nodding to a portrait of the Libyan leader, he stated that he was under direct orders to "get rid of the bloody stuff" and to "close the file" on the issue. Separately, xxxxxxxxxxxx confirmed that the Libyans had not yet signed a contract with SIPSA. He believes the Libyans are deliberately delaying their fulfillment of CWC-related commitments as a form of leverage to attain more "compensation" for their work. End Summary.
2.(C) During a November 18 meeting with Pol/Econ Chief, Dr. Ahmed Hesnawy, head of Libya's chemical weapons destruction program, thanked the USG for its support for Libya's extension and amendment requests on its CWC-related commitments during the October 12 Executive Council session (EC-58) of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). He requested continued support during the upcoming Conference of the States Parties (CSP). Hesnawy said that he appreciated the U.S. position and the support that came from the UK and EU delegations during EC-58. However, he noted his disappointment with the UK delegation's silence when the EU delegation expressed its reservations about the Libyan extension request. He said that the UK delegation had been briefed from the very beginning on the progress of Libya's program and "was aware of all the factors" that surrounded the two Libyan requests, but had not shared information on Libya's progress with EU counterparts. Hesnawy planned to express his thoughts directly to the UK Embassy in Tripoli.
UPDATE ON DESTRUCTION, CONVERSION PROGRAMS
3.(C) Hesnawy shared a brief update on the status of the destruction facility. He expressed his hope that his agency would be able to make a final decision on the process for destroying four chemicals. Regarding the plan for building the actual destruction site, he said that the Libyans had discussed beginning the civil work on the site and the schedule for destruction with the OPCW Secretariat. From a technical point of view, he predicted that progress would be visible around March or April. He said that he had enjoyed a great relationship with members of the Secretariat and that his only objection to the program was that the current members would be replaced with others who may not be as understanding of the many unique issues that Libya is confronting in its attempts to fulfill its CWC-related commitments.
4.(C) Hesnawy then gave an update on the status of the Rabta conversion. He said that the conversion of the Rabta facility would be done next month, before December 31. He said that he had sent a letter last week to the Libyan pharmaceutical company that was going to operate the facility, alerting it to the need to be ready for the OPCW inspection by January 1.
LIBYAN PARTICIPATION AT CSP
5.(C) Hesnawy related that he would not make a statement at the upcoming CSP, but he expected the Head of the Libyan Committee for the CWC, Mr. Mohammed Rageb El Ghadi, to give an update on Libya's progress. He characterized such statements as "political" and insisted that he was not a politician but rather a technical specialist and would offer technical updates to all delegations who requested them, including the U.S. and UK teams. Hesnawy stated that he was happy to meet for a preparatory working session in The Hague with the U.S. and UK delegations, but that he could not meet the week before the CSP due to religious (Eid al Kabeer) holidays. He said he would arrive in The Hague on November 29 and could meet anytime after that. Hesnawy stated that it was easy to be upfront and transparent TRIPOLI 00000933 002.2 OF 002 with information on Libya's progress toward fulfillment of its CWC-related commitments. Nodding to a portrait of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, he stated, "I have instructions from the highest authority to close the file on this matter, and to get rid of the bloody stuff," referring to Libya's chemical weapons and precursors.
SIPSA CONTRACT STATUS -- LIBYAN AND ITALIAN PERSPECTIVES
6.(C) In response to P/E chief's request for an updated on the status of the contract with the Italian firm, SIPSA, to build the chemical destruction facility, Hesnawy stated that he wanted to speak "off the record." He said that he was thinking about awarding part of the contract for design and construction of the facility to a Libyan firm and the other part to the Italian firm. He had not yet informed the Italian company of this development and did not know when he would do so. However, he stated that he wanted the USG to know about his plans, as the Libyan construction firm would probably need to purchase at least one piece of American technology that would require an export license -- an "A-Cam" manufactured by the company "OI Analight."
7.(C) In a separate conversion with P/E chief on November 15, Italian xxxxxxxxxxxx expressed his skepticism about Libya's progress toward fulfilling its CWC-related commitments. xxxxxxxxxxxx stated that he had spoken on October 8 with the SIPSA representative in charge of negotiating the contract with Hesnawy. At that time, a contract had not been signed for the construction of the facility, nor had Hesnawy asked SIPSA to draw up alternative blueprints, as he indicated in Ref B. SIPSA was ready to commence work as soon as the Libyans signed the contract with them. On the conversion site, xxxxxxxxxxxx said that the Italian pharmaceutical company (Pharmachem) had completed its work on the Rabta facilities. However, the Libyans are stalling on completion of the last phase of their contract -- to purchase the actual chemicals necessary for the production of pharmaceuticals. In xxxxxxxxxxxx's view, this is just the Libyans' way of maintaining leverage. As long as Libya does not completely fulfill its obligations, it can still hold out for more "compensation."
8.(C) Comment: While Hesnawy seemed confident in the progress being made on the conversion program, he did not have much specific information to share on progress toward the building and design of the destruction facility. It is unclear when the Libyans intend to begin chemical destruction if construction of the destruction facility has not yet commenced. Post will follow up with the Italians regarding the subject of the contract for the destruction facility. End Comment. CRETZ