LIBYA INSISTS BALL IN U.S. COURT ON SCUD B ALTERNATIVE
Passed to the Telegraph by WikiLeaks 10:39AM GMT 01 Feb 2011
Ref ID: 10TRIPOLI115
Date: 2/11/2010 15:54
Origin: Embassy Tripoli
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000115 NOFORN SIPDIS STATE FOR NEA/FO AND NEA/MAG; NSC FOR AGUIRRE E.O. 12958: DECL: 2/11/2020 TAGS: MTCRE, PARM, PREL, MNUC, ETTC, KSCA, LY SUBJECT: LIBYA INSISTS BALL IN U.S. COURT ON SCUD B ALTERNATIVE REF: A) State 11501; B) 09 Tripoli 753; C) 09 Tripoli 960 TRIPOLI 00000115 001.2 OF 002 CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(U) This is an action request; see para
2.(S) Summary: In a February 9 meeting with the Ambassador, the head of Libya’s Scud B destruction program, General Ahmed Azwai, insisted that the USG was mostly responsible for Libya’s delayed fulfillment of Scud B destruction commitments. Azwai blamed the USG for hampering Libyan efforts to find a Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)-compliant alternative weapons system to replace its Scud B stock and refused to discuss a destruction timeline until Libya acquires a replacement system. The Libyans passionately believe that the U.S. committed to assisting in the search for an alternative weapons system, and they want the U.S. to fulfill that commitment. Azwai indicated that Libya still wants to purchase the Russian Iskander missile that Libya originally proposed (ideally at the originally stipulated purchase price), but said that it is up to the U.S. to decide whether that is acceptable — if not, then he believes the U.S. should find an acceptable alternative. Azwai made no mention of the French Scalp missile or any other proposed alternatives during the meeting, suggesting that the Scalp proposal may have been an independent move by Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi. Azwai requested U.S. support for Libya’s bid for MTCR membership. End Summary.
AZWAI: THE U.S. COMMITED TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE SYSTEM FOR LIBYA
3.(S) General Ahmed Azwai, head of Libya’s Scud B destruction program, met with the Ambassador, accompanied by Pol/Econ Chief, on February 9 to reiterate Libya’s expectations that the USG identify a suitable alternative to the Scud B system. (Note: The meeting was scheduled in response to a September 2009 Embassy request for a status update on Libya’s MTCR-related commitments. End note.) Azwai, joined by Tajuri al-Shiradi of the MFA’s International Organizations office, as well as Libya’s “Rocket Committee,” reviewed the history of U.S.-Libya negotiations on the elimination of Libya’s Scud Bs and insisted that the 2004 trilateral agreement included “promises by the U.S. and UK to find a replacement for the Scud B system.” Referencing an English language version of the agreement that Azwai provided, the Ambassador explained that the wording did not commit the U.S. or UK to find a replacement system, but noted that we had in fact suggested alternative missile systems in the past, which Libya refused.
4.(S) Azwai insisted that the language of the agreement obligates the U.S. and UK to help Libya find a suitable replacement system. Azwai argued that instead of helping Libya fulfill its commitments, the U.S. had thrown obstacles in Libya’s way, first by initially rejecting Libya’s request to purchase Iskander missiles from Russia and then by delaying the sale by stalling the approval process. Azwai noted that Libya had already signed a contract with Russia to purchase the Iskander missiles when the U.S. objected (he asserted that the UK had assented to the sale).
“The process dragged on for two years, and we could not wait that long~and now, we still do not have an acceptable alternative,” he said. According to Azwai, the two other systems the U.S. suggested — one from Ukraine and another from Russia — were both “unacceptable alternatives” due to the technical and range specifications needed to guarantee Libya’s national security.
“We must have a replacement system,” he stated. “I will not allow 12,000 Libyan soldiers to remain unarmed and vulnerable. If I give up their weapons before I have a replacement, they will turn on me.”
He argued that Libya had already given up some of its rocket systems and codes and did not intend to give up any more until it could replace its current stock.
ISKANDER STILL BEST ALTERNATIVE TO LIBYAN SCUD B
5.(S) While Azwai told the Ambassador that Libya was “actively looking” for an alternative system, he believes that the Iskander system originally proposed by the Libyan side is still the best alternative to Libya’s Scud Bs. However, according to the Rockets Committee, the price of that system has increased by one hundred percent. Azwai expressed Libya’s continued desire to purchase the Iskander missile at a lower price than that which the Russians were currently offering, and he sought U.S. approval for such a purchase.
“In the beginning,” he commented, “we were hoping for a U.S. system, but you said there was none.”
He continued that “the only friend for Libya is Russia on weapons sales.” (Azwai did not mention the French Scalp system that Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi’s staff raised with Emboffs in November 2009, suggesting that the proposal may have been an independent move by Saif.)
Azwai emphasized that he expected the U.S. to suggest viable alternatives, and for those suggestions to be offered either in writing or in the context of another meeting with him.
6.(S) The Ambassador asked whether Libya had begun to develop a timeline for the destruction of its Scud B missiles and suggested that a U.S. technical team come to Tripoli to discuss destruction plans.
Per reftel guidance, the Ambassador offered that the USG could support Libya’s Scud B destruction with technical and financial assistance. Initially Azwai refused to discuss destruction plans until an alternative system has been identified, but as the Ambassador reiterated his points, Azwai asked that the Rocket Committee make note of the U.S. offer. He asked whether the U.S. would fund destruction “one hundred percent,” or partially, snidely remarking that “we Libyans need to be careful about what the American offers really mean.”
He underscored that Libya “will not think about destruction until you [the U.S.] fulfill your commitment.” Azwai said that he would not be willing to discuss destruction until after a contract for a replacement system was signed.
Furthermore, since the Libyans perceive the delays in meeting Libya’s MTCR commitments as rooted in U.S. inaction on the issue, Azwai demanded that Libya receive an extension on its MTCR-commitment deadline.
LIBYA’S BID FOR MTCR MEMBERSHIP
7.(S) Azwai further complained that the United States had not supported Libya’s recent bids to become a full MTCR member. Members of the Rocket Committee specified that they had requested support from several embassies in Libya, with the exception of the United States, but had also requested support in Paris, at the most recent MTCR meetings. Azwai said that Libya had fulfilled the stipulations the MTCR committee required for membership, including adopting new legislation, but still could not obtain full membership. He inferred that the U.S. was part of the reason Libya’s membership was blocked. The Ambassador highlighted that the USG could not act on a request that was not directly raised with us and advised the Rocket Committee to send an official request for U.S. support of Libya’s membership in order for it to be considered in Washington. Azwai agreed to do so.
COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST
8.(S/NF) This meeting revealed what appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the terms and obligations of the involved parties of the 2004 trilateral Scud B disposition agreement. Azwai was adamant that the U.S. was obliged to help Libya identify a Scud B replacement system and made it clear that, unless we do, he has no intention of moving forward on destruction. It is unclear whether Azwai’s position is based on a concrete Libyan legal interpretation of the 2004 agreement or a purely political assessment that Libya has gotten less than it was promised during the 2003-2004 negotiations regarding its WMD programs.
We have been hearing the latter with increasing frequency from the highest levels of the Libyan government, including Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi. It is clear that further discussions — either at the expert or political level — will be required in order to make progress on the replacement and destruction issues. The Department’s guidance on next steps on these issues, as well as Libya’s MTCR membership bid, is requested. CRETZ