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Viewing cable 09TRIPOLI492, QADHAFI IN ROME: THE 'MAN OF HISTORY' VISITS THE ETERNAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TRIPOLI492 2009-06-18 14:02 2011-01-31 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Tripoli
VZCZCXRO2200
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHTRO #0492/01 1691401
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 181401Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4940
INFO RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0525
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1492
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 0839
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 0961
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 0899
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5474
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000492 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  6/18/2019 
TAGS: PREL SMIG KTIA IT LY
SUBJECT: QADHAFI IN ROME: THE 'MAN OF HISTORY' VISITS THE ETERNAL 
CITY 
 
TRIPOLI 000492 NOFORN SIPDIS DEPT FOR NEA/MAG E.O. 12958: DECL: 6/18/2019 TAGS: PREL SMIG KTIA IT LY

1.(C) Summary: Libyan Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi brought hundreds of companions and his trademark sensational fanfare with him on his first trip to Italy - Libya's former colonial master. In a read-out to the Ambassador, the Italian Ambassador (protect) described the myriad near misses and embarrassments: the visit was nearly canceled while Qadhafi's plane circled due to PM Berlusconi's back pain, denizens of the Eternal City were embarrassed by Qadhafi's frequent and public statements decrying Italy's occupation, and Italians were angered by Qadhafi's implication that U.S. airstrikes against Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 were akin to the September 11 attacks. On substantive issues, leaders discussed African and migration issues, with Qadhafi suggesting that EU payments of 1 billion Euros per year to Libya would enable him to solve the root problems that cause migration. The two nations signed several agreements addressing double taxation, maritime resources, an MOU on visa issuance, and an Italian-funded scholarship for 100 Libyan students. While Qadhafi's provocative statements and protocol demands proved a difficult pill to swallow, the Italians are hopeful that his historic trip was the last piece of the re-engagement puzzle and will allow them to close a painful and difficult chapter in the Libyan-Italian bilateral relationship. End Summary.

2.(C) Just returned from his accompanying the Libyan delegation of Colonel Qadhafi to Rome (June 10-13), Italian Ambassador Francesco Trupiano briefed the Ambassador and EU diplomats on June 17 on the historic visit's results. Trupiano said his mission had issued over 446 visas for the delegation (not including those officials who already had multi-entry permits) which traveled in 4 airplanes and ferried all vehicles and an ambulance as well. Interestingly, Trupiano also said -- given the close relationship between PM Berlusconi and Qadhafi -- that arrangements for the trip had been made by direct contact between their two offices. There had been several trips by senior Libyan officials in the past several weeks to firm up the program for the visit.

3.(C) Qadhafi's core delegation consisted of National Security Adviser (and son) Muatassim, Qadhafi, cousin and envoy on Egyptian affairs Colonel Ahmed Qaddafadam, Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, MFA Secretary for Arab Affairs Mohammed Siala, interpreter Fuad Zlitney, and National Oil chairman Shukri Ghanem. Trupiano pointed out that Muatassim clearly played a prominent role, always seated next to his father and attending all of the important meetings.

4.(C) As expected, Qadhafi managed to provoke controversy from the start. His emerging from his aircraft, his uniform adorned with the picture of Libyan resistance leader Omar al-Mukhtar in chains in Italian custody, followed by Mukhtar's son and other survivors of the Italian occupation (1911-1942) set Italian heads spinning. Trupiano said he and the Italians present knew that the son would be present along with the others but were unaware there would be a pectoral picture.

5.(C/NF) In a subsequent discussion with the Ambassador, Trupiano said that PM Berlusconi suffered acute back pain the day of the visit and had asked for a shot of cortisone to help him get dressed. That initial shot apparently did little good to alleviate the pain and the Italians then notified Qadhafi's plane (which was circling Rome airport) that Berlusconi might not be present at the airport arrival. The Libyans reportedly threatened to cancel the visit if Qadhafi was not met by Berlusconi or President Napolitano (a non-starter for Italian protocol given Qadhafi's lack of equivalent head-of-state title). At that point, Berlusconi asked for and received a second cortisone shot which enabled him to make the airport arrival, though Trupiano said that several times while waiting, the PM almost collapsed from the intense pain.

6.(C) In addition to the Omar al-Mukhtar picture, Qadhafi violated protocol standards by immediately introducing to Berlusconi all of the individuals who also wore pictures around their necks of relatives who had suffered Italian cruelty or of themselves. Each told a brief story to the PM. In every venue in which he spoke, Qadhafi referred to the cruelty of the European (especially singling out the Italians and the French occupation of Algeria) colonial period, tailoring his remarks to each audience. He noted to his official interlocutors that the Libyan-Italian rapprochement is one that can be used as a model for other colonial powers who might wish to reconcile and turn a new page with their former colonies. TRIPOLI 00000492 002.2 OF 002

7.(C) During his meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano, Qadhafi reportedly focused on African issues, noting that with respect to Eritrea and Ethiopia, there had been an agreement on the border but that it needed implementation. He invited Italy to work with Libya to mediate the conflict. On Somalia, Qadhafi reiterated his theme that piracy was caused by international commerce depriving Somalis of a living by fishing in their waters and argued that Somalia should have the right to extend its Exclusive Economic Zone to 200 miles. The Leader said Libya would submit a proposal at the upcoming UNGA whereby the world would recognize the economic rights of Somalia and pay a fee for fishing in return for a Somali effort to end piracy. Qadhafi also urged continued reform of the UNSC to reduce its influence in favor of the UNGA. He also advocated for a permanent UNSC seat for the African Union.

8.(C) Qadhafi and PM Berlusconi, according to Trupiano, discussed the migration problem, with Qadhafi asserting that there were in fact no real political refugees emerging from the "deserts of Africa." The vast majority fled for economic reasons and Qadhafi said that as a follow-up to the EU-Libyan meeting of November 2006, the EU should pay Libya 1 billion euros every year which Libya would use to help African nations solve their economic issues which would lead to a solution of the illegal migration issue. Libya, said Qadhafi, is doing its part to resolve this difficult issue between itself and the EU, especially Italy; several government officials and soldiers had been arrested recently for trafficking in illegal migrants.

9.(C) Among the agreements signed between the two sides were one on avoiding double taxation, an economic/scientific/technical agreement on marine resources (Italy refused to acknowledge Libya's effort to have the Italians recognize Libyan territorial claims of 74 miles), agreement by the Italians to fund 100 scholarships for Libyan students, and an MOU on facilitating the issuance of visas. The meeting with Italian industrialists resulted in a Libyan pledge to abolish discriminatory practices and to weed out corruption to enable companies to operate better in Libya.

10.(C) Trupiano asserted that the Italians were extremely embarrassed by Qadhafi's remarks, and especially angered by those seemingly equating the "state-sponsored terrorism" of the 1986 U.S. air attacks on Tripoli and Benghazi with al-Qaeda's attacks on 9/11. The Mayor of Rome affirmed the importance of the U.S.-Italy relationship and implicitly criticized Qadhafi's comments. That exchange reportedly caused Qadhafi to cancel without official reason the subsequent speech to the Italian parliamentarians. Qadhafi also insisted that he be the only male in the room during his discussion with 700 Italian women who questioned him on the real status of women in Libya. During a university discussion with students, Qadhafi avoided the hard questions by continually asking "clarifying questions" but never answering.

11.(C) Comment: The Italians are obviously relieved that the visit, which left Romans extremely angry at the Libyans and the government for the massive traffic tie-ups and the expense of hosting the Libyans, is over. Trupiano expressed the hope that while the Italians had to swallow hard on Qadhafi's unrelenting mention of the occupation, they believed that perhaps the Libyans would finally be able to close this chapter and begin a new relationship. Qadhafi was clearly taken with the historical import of his trip, making unscheduled stops throughout to see various moments and places connected to the Italian occupation, including the place from which Mussolini spoke during his reign. According to Trupiano, the Italians were continuously frustrated by their inability to control Qadhafi's provocative comments on terrorism, the need to abolish political parties, and on the historical factors which led to female emancipation in the West. At the end of the day, the Italians here believe that despite the bells and flourishes and announcements of all manner of agreements, that matters will return to normal and there will be little if any implementation or follow-up. The Italians will have another opportunity to experience the Qadhafi roadshow when he visits the G-8 Summit in July in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union. End Comment. CRETZ