Cablegate: Libya Seeks U.S. Cooperation On Astronomy, Seismology and Satellites Tripoli 00000133 001.2 of 002
PP RUEHBC RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0133/01 0470933
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 160933Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5805
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0679
RUEHVT/AMEMBASSY VALLETTA PRIORITY 0476
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 6363
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02
STATE FOR NEA/MAG; OES FOR ROBERT SENSENEY AND WILLIAM LAWRENCE;
PM /RSAT FOR TOM MANCINELLI; COMMERCE FOR NATE MASON
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2/16/2020 TAGS: TSPA ETTC PINR LY
SUBJECT: LIBYA SEEKS U.S. COOPERATION ON ASTRONOMY, SEISMOLOGY AND SATELLITES TRIPOLI 00000133 001.2 OF 002 CLASSIFIED BY: Gene Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, U.S. Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(SBU) This is an action request. Please see para 8.
2. (SBU) Summary: The head of Libya's Center for Remote Sensing and Space Science expressed interest in renewing cooperation with the U.S. on astronomy, seismology and satellites. The Center's Director sought Embassy assistance in purchasing a U.S.-origin "mini-satellite" and telescopes for a new National Observatory project. He also expressed interest in joint workshops and training opportunities. This could be useful areas for engagement with the Presidential Science Envoy. End summary.
3. (SBU) On February 3, Pol/Econ Chief and Econoff met with Hadi Gashut, head of Libya's Center for Remote Sensing and Space Science, who had requested the meeting to renew discussions on cooperative projects and to enlist the Embassy's assistance to facilitate Libya's procurement of a "mini-satellite" from the United States. Gashut was joined by two other colleagues, Abdalrahem Aboghofa, Director of Technical Projects, and Sharif M. Sharif, Manager of the Technical Department. Gashut explained the Center's interest in purchasing a "high resolution mini-satellite" -- preferably from the U.S. -- to track the rate of desertification in Libya, monitor the status of the Great Manmade River Project (which pipes water from aquifers in the Sahara to the coastal areas), and observe Libya's borders. He said the Libyan agency had not yet contacted any U.S. Government agencies, such as NASA, or any U.S. companies, and sought guidance from the Embassy on how to locate the appropriate contact. Gashut said that Libya's neighbors had such satellites, noting that Algeria had three satellites, Egypt had two, and Saudi Arabia had a few of its own. Due to the likely need for an export license, Gashut said he wanted to go through the Embassy from the outset in order to follow the proper procedure.
LIBYA HAS 300 CLOUDLESS NIGHTS: PERFECT FOR ASTRONOMY
4. (SBU) According to Gashut, Libya has, on average, "300 cloudless nights," and therefore offers an excellent locale for astronomy research. "Whereas other government agencies are interested in the sun and solar energy these days, our concern is for the moon and the stars," he stated. Gashut outlined Libyan plans for a new National Observatory and requested Embassy assistance in identifying a U.S. supplier of 2-4 meter telescopes for the project. Ideally, the telescope would be robotic, and one which astronomers in other countries could remotely access. He said that Libya only had a small, mobile telescope (50 cm). The Libyans have had the specifications for the telescope for five years, and have also discussed the project with the Europeans but, according to Gashut, the Europeans "did not understand the importance" of the project and have not helped identify sources. He said he could send the specifications to any interested companies.
5. (C) Gashut asked if U.S. experts would be interested in participating in workshops on seismology and other related topics. He said Libya had signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) in 2008 and that Libya was "now ready" to move forward on joint projects. One need was for short-term training (2-3 months) for Libyan researchers, for which Libya could cover all transportation if the USGS could help with hotel and food costs. As for whether Libya was ready to join the Global Seismic Network (GSN), a consortium of countries that share seismic data, he intimated it was a non-starter at the moment since the "decision-makers don't understand" the importance of joining the network. Gashut commented that he and his colleagues were "scientists, not involved in sensitive, political issues." Nevertheless, he did not want to let GOL inaction on the GSN impede progress in other areas, such as exchanges and graduate study for Libyans in the U.S. He added that UNESCO had a project to help Libya equip 15 seismology stations with strong motion detection capability. Gashut noted that the project had been stalled, since UNESCO had been working with a Swiss company, Geo-Signal, hinting that ongoing political differences between Libya and Switzerland had derailed the progress.
NASA: LIBYA WELCOMES YOU BACK
6. (SBU) Regarding the equipment that NASA had provided to the University of Sebha, Gashut said that the Very Low Frequency (VLF) equipment was still in place and being used for research. He said the NASA staff, including the project manager Joseph Davila, were welcome to return to Libya for a visit and to renew TRIPOLI 00000133 002.2 OF 002 collaboration on the project. He recommended Davila contact the University of Sebha to discuss trip dates. Gashut pledged to help facilitate visa approvals for NASA visitors.
7. (SBU) Gashut noted that his organization falls under the National Authority for Scientific Research, headed by Mohammed Sharif, which is part of the General People's Committee for Higher Education (MOE-equivalent). This is separate from the work of Dr. Ali Gashut (no relation) who is the head of the Libyan Atomic Energy Establishment.
COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST
8. (C) Following the signing of the U.S.-Libya Science and Technology Agreement, no Libyan institutions, with the exception of the Libyan Atomic Energy Establishment, have reached out to follow through on proposed joint projects. Post assumes that while our interlocutors at the working level are keenly interested in working with U.S. experts, approval for direct contact is sometimes blocked at higher levels. The Center for Remote Sensing and Space Science's desire to renew collaboration on a variety of projects is encouraging, and we recommend following-up on its request for training in the U.S. and to conduct joint-workshops with U.S. experts. Dr. Gashut also could be a useful interlocutor for Science Envoy Dr. Zerhouni. We note that the Libyan's request to purchase a U.S.-origin "mini-satellite" could raise export control issues, and request the Department's guidance on whether it is realistic for Libya to pursue the procurement of a U.S.-sourced satellite and a U.S.-sourced telescope at this time. End comment. CRETZ