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Cablegate: Afghan Minister Agrees in Principle to Launch Khost Bbg

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBUL #3868 3371204
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 031204Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3712
INFO RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 8147

UNCLAS KABUL 003868

DEPT FOR SRAP, SCA/PPD, R
DEPT PASS TO BBG AND VOA

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECPS PREL PROP BBG VOA AF

SUBJECT: Afghan Minister Agrees in Principle to Launch Khost BBG
Transmitter on a Provisional Basis Pending Further Negotiations

1. (SBU) Summary: During a meeting with Minister Khorram,
Ambassador Mussomeli proposed a compromise to resolve the impasse
regarding the Khost transmitter: an exchange of diplomatic notes
whereby the U.S. would formally request to begin immediate use of
the Khost facility for a period of six months, during which time
formal negotiations would take place to address any Afghan concerns
about the overall agreement. Khorram told the Assistant Ambassador
he would allow the use of the new BBG Khost transmitter on this
provisional basis to allow time for further negotiations aimed to
address Afghan concerns about the potential content of U.S. Pashtu
language broadcasts from Afghan territory. A draft diplomatic note
to the GIROA is included in paragraph five. End Summary.

2. (SBU) During a December 2 meeting at the Ministry of
Information and Culture, Minister Khorram expressed concerns about
possible VOA Pashtu language broadcasts which might contravene
Afghan national interests.

3. (SBU) Khorram has, in the past, proposed an amendment to the
BBG's current operating agreement with Afghanistan to incorporate
the following language: "Afghanistan shall have the right to
terminate the transmission of programs, following consultation on
issues not exceeding 24 hours, that are deemed detrimental to the
national interests of Afghanistan." According to Khorram, last May
he met with BBG officials in Washington and that they had agreed to
this provision, but have since rejected the proposal. Instead, BBG
has urged a de-linking of the two issues, seeking an immediate
approval for transmitting from the Khost tower, but also agreeing to
open negotiations on the overall agreement. Ambassador Mussomeli
pressed this proposal, but Khorram demurred, repeating that he could
not understand why BBG had agreed to this language earlier, but not
now.

4. (SBU) Ambassador Mussomeli explained the critical nature of the
Khost facility, reviewed recent U.S.-Afghan discussions on the
subject, and urged Khorram to accept the BBG proposal. Mussomeli
ultimately proposed, and Minister Khorram agreed, to an exchange of
diplomatic notes whereby the U.S. would formally request to begin
using the Khost facility for a period not to exceed six months,
during which time formal negotiations would take place to address
any Afghan concerns about the overall agreement. If the sides fail
to come to agreement within six months, the Afghan side would be
permitted to withdraw its permission to continue to operate the
Khost facility.

5. (SBU) Substantive portions of the text of the proposed draft
Diplomatic note follows:

Begin text:

In reference to the Embassy's Diplomatic Note Number 09-1879 dated
June 28, 2009, the Embassy wishes to inform the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs that on December 2, 2009, U.S. Assistant Ambassador Joseph
Mussomeli met with Minister of Information and Culture Khorram to
discuss the status of the Khost radio transmission facility.
Minister Khorram conveyed his desire to negotiate certain amendments
to the current BBG operating agreement in Afghanistan that would
allow the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to
suspend BBG broadcasting rights from the Khost facility if that
facility is used to transmit messages which are deemed detrimental
to the national interests of Afghanistan. Given the high priority
placed by the government of the United States on initiating use of
the Khost transmission facility, Ambassador Mussomeli proposed that
the Khost facility be granted provisional permission to operate for
a period of six months, during which time the Governments of the
United States and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan would conduct
further negotiations to seek to resolve any and all outstanding
issues with respect to use of the Khost facility. Minister Khorram
welcomed this proposal and agreed with it, suggesting that the
agreement be formalized through an exchange of diplomatic notes.
The Embassy of the United States hereby kindly requests that the
Ministry convey this proposal formally to the Ministry of
Information and Culture at its earliest convenience. End Draft
Text.

MUSSOMELI

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