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Viewing cable 09TRIPOLI606, LIBYAN (MIS) CONDUCT OF FOREIGN RELATIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TRIPOLI606 2009-07-28 16:04 2011-01-31 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Tripoli
VZCZCXRO8446
PP RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP
RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHTRO #0606 2091627
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P R 281627Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5084
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN 0041
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0020
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5623
S E C R E T TRIPOLI 000606 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  7/28/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV SZ TS LY
SUBJECT: LIBYAN  (MIS) CONDUCT OF FOREIGN RELATIONS 
 
REF: TRIPOLI 59 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Gene Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.(S/NF) Summary: During a year of regional prominence for the Jamahiriya, Libya has nevertheless continued to create bilateral rifts with previously close countries - namely Switzerland and Tunisia. In the Swiss case, the Qadhafi family was insulted when the Geneva police had the "audacity" to arrest one of the Leader's sons (Hannibal) for allegedly beating his household staff. While the situation with the Swiss seems to be slowly nearing a possible resolution, Libya is now threatening its relationship with Tunisia by levying a "tax" on incoming trucks, an action which reportedly resulted from a "personal" slight to the Leader by President Ben Ali. End Summary.

2.(S/NF) Newly-arrived Swiss Charge d'Affaires, Stefano Lazaratto, informed the Ambassador and Pol/Econ Chief July 28 that he was hoping to be able to remain in his position but that he had not yet been informed by the GOL that he would be allowed to stay. Lazaratto, who arrived ten days ago, reported that Bern was fairly optimistic that a resolution to the Swiss-Libyan imbroglio was now within possible reach (reftel). According to Lazaratto, the Swiss are waiting for an invitation from Libya for President Pascal Couchepin to come to Libya to resolve the issue personally, perhaps during a meeting with the Leader. Lazaratto expects the situation to be resolved after the Swiss president offers a formal apology to Qadhafi, although he and other Swiss officials are acutely aware that what they may interpret as a final agreement with the Libyans may be subject to change even after the Swiss leader's possible arrival in Tripoli.

3.(S/NF) Proving that an offense or insult to the Leader -- regardless of how minor -- is worthy of a strong reaction, Qadhafi has also apparently decided to provoke an escalating bilateral crisis between Libya and Tunisia. Contacts tell us that the problem began when Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali did not attend the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CEN-SAD) Summit May 28-30, hosted by Qadhafi in Sabratha. The GOL, insulted at the slight, ordered that stiff fees be levied on the hundreds of Tunisian trucks crossing the Tunisian-Libyan border everyday, causing this important trade to come to an almost dead halt. The "tax" is reportedly 250 dinars per truck (approximately 200 USD). Ben Ali was reportedly incensed by the action, especially given that it is an election year. The Tunisians insist that Libya's unfriendly actions also contravene longstanding bilateral agreements on border issues. The action has prompted Tunisia to withdraw Ambassador M. Mohamed Brahem, who took up his post in January 2005. Brahem will reportedly depart on an extended vacation, leaving open the possibility of his return should the disagreement be resolved. Neither the Tunisians nor the Libyans have publicly signaled a formal rupture of relations, although there is considerable anger on the side of the Libyans, who understand the true meaning of the ambassador's departure.

4.(S/NF) Comment: The two cases reflect the Leader's track record of blowing events out of proportion no matter what the political cost, especially when an offense has been caused to himself or his family (e.g., his continuing battle with Saudi King Abdullah who openly snubbed him at an Arab League Summit several years ago). We understand that the decision to take action against the Tunisians would not have been made unless condoned by Qadhafi himself, who takes a close, hands-on and personal interest in Libya's dealings with Tunisia and Egypt. End Comment. CRETZ