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Viewing cable 09TRIPOLI100, UN SEEKS USG ASSISTANCE FOR LIBYAN DE-MINING PROGRAM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TRIPOLI100 2009-02-04 10:10 2011-02-01 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tripoli
Appears in these articles:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wikileaks-files/libya-wikileaks/
VZCZCXRO2520
OO RUEHTRO
DE RUEHTRO #0100 0351016
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 041016Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4424
INFO RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0994
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0681
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0043
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0491
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1394
RUEHNJ/AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA 0155
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0163
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4948
C O N F I D E N T I A L TRIPOLI 000100 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND PM/WRA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  2/4/2019 
TAGS: PARM PREL KHDP LY CD EG
SUBJECT: UN SEEKS USG ASSISTANCE FOR LIBYAN DE-MINING PROGRAM 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 

1. (SBU) Summary: UN experts, based on consultations with GOL officials and preliminary review of Libyan minefield maps, estimate that there are 16 million landmines in the Ouzou Strip along the Chadian border and along the Libyan-Egyptian border to the east.  In addition, unexploded ordinance from World War II is a major problem in and around the eastern city of Tobruk and along the Egyptian border.  There have been a number of recent fatalities involving landmines; the UN views the situation as critical and has developed a relationship with several Libyan partners to begin de-mining in earnest.  They will focus first on the Ouzou Strip, move next to the Egyptian border and then address unexploded WWII ordnance.  France, Germany, Italy, and the UK will contribute funds and expertise for the final phase, with the UN providing an estimated $4 million for an initial assessment.  UN officials expect to receive funding from the GOL for the bulk of the work and would welcome technical expertise and/or funding from the USG.  End Summary.  

MINES IN LIBYA: SITUATION CRITICAL  

2. (SBU) UN Resident Coordinator Brian Gleeson recently briefed the Ambassador on the status of de-mining efforts under UN auspices.  Citing consultations with GOL officials and minefield maps obtained from the government, the UN estimates there are upwards of 16 million miles on Libya's southern and eastern borders.  On the southern Ouzou Strip, mine density in certain areas exceeds one device per square meter.  The dangerous situation is compounded by the demographic of the two regions: the porous desert borders are home to nomadic Bedouin herders who pass from country to country.  Gleeson has received reports of Bedouins cooking off unexploded ordinance in their campfires and killing themselves.  Critically, Libyans are smuggling mines to the Chad side of the border to recycle the explosives.  3. (SBU) In separate conversations with P/E Chief, Gleeson said a World Food Program (WFP) driver had been killed in late October while driving from the southeastern WFP logistics hub in Kufra into eastern Chad.  Walking a few meters from the main north-south track for a rest stop, the driver tripped a WWII-era mine.  Another incident occurred in connection with a UN-sponsored de-mining conference in the eastern city of Tobruk in November.  A Libyan military officer was showing unexploded WWII ordinance to journalists; the device detonated, killing three people.  

DE-MINING POLITICALLY SENSITIVE  

4. (C) When Gleeson first broached the subject of a de-mining initiative under UN auspices, he was told to avoid the issue because it was of personal interest to Muammar al-Qadhafi and therefore extremely sensitive.  According to well-placed contacts of the UN, al-Qadhafi wanted to keep the mines in place as a deterrent against potential aggression by Egypt or Chad. The UN has nonetheless quietly pursued a de-mining initiative through Libyan partners, including the Libyan Anti-Mining League, the Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF) and the National Security Council (NSC).  The QDF and NSC partnerships are key, since they are headed by Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi and Muatassim al-Qadhafi, respectively (both are sons of Muammar al-Qadhafi).  With buy-in from members of the al-Qadhafi family, Gleeson now believes he has agreement for a major de-mining initiative in Libya.  

5. (SBU) Gleeson proposes a three-phase initiative.  Work will begin first in the southern Ouzou Strip, where Libya laid millions of mines during its war with Chad over the contested Ouzou Strip in the 1980's.  The second phase would focus on an area along the Egyptian-Libyan border, where millions of mines were laid during the 1977 Egypt-Libya border war.  In the third and final phase, unexploded circa-WWII ordnance, mostly in and around the eastern city of Tobruk and along the northern section of the Egyptian-Libyan border, would be removed.  The UN will pay $3-4 million for an assessment by technical experts to better determine the scope of the work.  It expects the GOL to fund the bulk of the actual de-mining work.  Gleeson noted that USG technical expertise and/or funding for de-mining would be welcomed.  

6. (C) Comment: Cooperation on technical issues seen to be non-political and of benefit to the Libyan people are comparatively palatable to the GOL.  U.S. technical assistance and/or funding could afford another area for U.S.-Libya cooperation; however, Post would recommend waiting to see whether the UN is able to move beyond assessments to actual implementation before taking any further steps.  End comment.  CRETZ