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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ABUJA1247
2003-07-22 16:44:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

ECOWAS EXSEC CHAMBAS DISCUSSES NEXT STEPS ON

Tags:  PREL MASS MOPS PHUM NI LI 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001247 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/15/13
TAGS: PREL MASS MOPS PHUM NI LI
SUBJECT: ECOWAS EXSEC CHAMBAS DISCUSSES NEXT STEPS ON
LIBERIA WITH A/S KANSTEINER


Classified By Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons 1.5
(B) AND (D).




1. (C) Summary. In a July 12 side-bar meeting during
President Bush's visit to Nigeria, A/S Kansteiner told
ECOWAS Executive Secretary Chambas that the United
States was still considering its policy options in
Liberia. Chambas asserted United States troops were
essential to the success of a stabilization force. He
added that ECOWAS leaders had agreed to deploy a 1,150
"vanguard" quickly to Monrovia. Chambas' timetable
for establishing a transitional government was for
Taylor to relinquish the Presidency by August 5, with
Vice President Blah presiding until October, then
handing over to a transitional government mandated to
hold elections by October 2004. Most likely, the
transitional formula would be a power-sharing
arrangement with remnants of the GOL, the LURD, MODEL,
and major political parties participating. At the
meeting, Chambas was accompanied by his Information
Officer and two Special Assistants. Kansteiner was
joined by Special Assistant Jim Dunlap, NSC Director
Bobby Pittman and Abuja's A/DCM. End Summary




--------------------------


The USG: Seriously Vetting The Options


--------------------------






2. (C) During a July 12 morning meeting at the
Ambassador's residence, A/S Kansteiner told ECOWAS
Executive Secretary Mohammed Ibn Chambas that the USG
was still considering the full range of options for
Liberia. Kansteiner elaborated that those options
ranged from provision of only financial support, to a
mixture of financial and logistical assistance, to the
possible deployment of American troops on Liberian
soil. A/S Kansteiner emphasized that a decision had
not been made. One of the reasons President Bush
embarked on the trip to Africa was to hear from the
continent's leaders on the subject of Liberia and to
listen to their views on the possible introduction of
U.S. troops there, Kansteiner said. Kansteiner asked
Chambas about the ECOWAS plan for troop deployment to
Liberia.




3. (C) Chambas responded that President Obasanjo met
Ghana's Kufuor and Mali's Toure, who were joined by
several West Africa Foreign Ministers, on the margins
of the AU Summit in Maputo. The three Presidents
agreed to the rapid deployment of 1,050 troops
(Nigeria - 750, Ghana - 250, Mali - 150) no later than
July 28. This first deployment would subsequently be
augmented by a total number of approximately 3,000
ECOWAS troops. Chambas added that President Obasanjo
had named a Nigerian Brigadier General to command the
force and Mali was being asked to supply the Deputy
Commander. Chambas emphasized that the Heads of State
had concluded that a quick deployment was essential to
avoid giving Taylor a pretext for remaining. However,
he feared a small force not backed by U.S. muscle,
might not have the necessary coercive influence.
Taylor or one of the other groups might test them.
However, a U.S. presence, with all of its military and
logistical capabilities, would convince Taylor that
his era had ended, Chambas maintained.




4. (C) Assuming U.S. troops would deploy, Kansteiner
asked how large an American deployment did ECOWAS
envision. How may U.S. troops would it take to
convince Taylor and the LURD to cease and desist,
Kansteiner asked? Chambas answered that one thousand
American troops, particularly with a "vessel on the
horizon," would have a sufficient sobering effect on
Taylor and the LURD. The full contingent would not
have to remain throughout the exercise. Within two or
three weeks, roughly half could be withdrawn, Chambas
posited. Regarding other help the ECOWAS deployment
would need, Chambas stated that per diem, airlift,
logistical and equipment assistance would be needed
for most troop contributing states. He was unsure
whether Nigeria would need lift assistance or could
use their own C-130 transport.




--------------------------


Timing is Important


--------------------------






5. (C) A/S Kansteiner mentioned that the ECOWAS
sequence calling for troop deployment a week before
Taylor's exit was problematic. He underscored that
any U.S. deployment was contingent on Taylor's prior
departure. We have said publicly that we will not
send troops while Taylor remained in Liberia,
Kansteiner affirmed. Noting the USG concern, Chambas
acknowledged the ECOWAS scenario contemplated troop
deployment before Taylor's departure. He briefly
raised the possibility of ECOWAS deploying first,
followed by an American deployment after Taylor
departed. However, he quickly scotched that idea,
stating the importance to Taylor and the Liberia
people of simultaneity in the ECOWAS and American
deployments. Kansteiner mentioned that President Bush
would discuss the sequencing of the possible U.S.
deployment with President Obasanjo; maybe a way to
finesse this dilemna would be to fashion the
simultaneous Taylor departure and U.S. troop
deployment. For instance, a MEU could anchor off the
coast as Taylor relinquished power on his way to the
airport. Upon Taylor's departure, U.S. troops would
land immediately.




6. (C) Kansteiner raised concern about LURD statements
that it would fight American or any other peacekeepers
if deployed prior to Taylor's departure. In part
Chambas discounted the LURD statement as braggadoccio.
However, he also felt this grew out of a concern that
Taylor would footdrag once peacekeepers were deployed
and attempt to use the peacekeepers as his defensive
shield. Chambas stated that it was important to talk
to the LURD to allay these fears. It was equally
important that the troops deploy in a manner rendering
it difficult for Taylor to be desultory. Chambas
added that President Obasanjo planned to visit Conakry
on July 13 to discuss Liberia with President Conte.
(Comment: Reading between the lines, we believe
Obasanjo visited Conakry to persuade President Conte
to influence the LURD to behave responsibly. End
Comment).




--------------------------


What Manner of Government


--------------------------






7. (C) Chambas asserted that ECOWAS leaders were
preoccupied with maintaining as much of a
constitutional semblance as possible in the hand-over
of power. The Heads of States did not want to discard
the constitution completely; they did not want to set
too liberal a precedent. Consequently, Chambas had
identified August 5 as the appropriate date for Taylor
to relinquish power. Taylor was inaugurated August 6,
1997; August 5 would be the last day of his
constitutionally mandated six-year term.
Additionally, the ECOWAS leaders believed Taylor
should pass the baton to Vice-President Blah in
consonance with constitutional succession provisions.
Chambas stated that Taylor was toying with the idea of
replacing Blah with House Speaker Sando Johnson or
Planning Minister Roland Massaquoi, both long-time
loyalists, so that either one could succeed him. LURD
would be uneasy whether Blah or either of the other
two became temporary Head of State; the LURD would
suspect that Taylor was still piloting the Liberian
ship, albeit by proxy, Chambas offered. A/S
Kansteiner underlined that the period for Blah to hold
power should be brief. This would seem to lessen the
LURD's and others' misgivings.




8. (C) Chambas reiterated that the transnational
government should be established by October. The
government's lifespan would be one year; its mandate
would be to reestablish basic government services and
to establish conditions to hold elections the
following October. The date would be in keeping with
the Liberia political custom of holding elections that
month. Chambas stated the ideal transitional
government would be composed exclusively of
technocrats with no political ambitions. However, the
reality was that there were few Liberians who fit that
neutral description. Moreover, LURD, and MODEL would
balk at a government of technocrats because they would
be shut out. Instead, the most likely approach would
be that whoever succeeds Taylor must make a public
commitment to turn over to the transitional government
and not contest in the 2004 elections. Then a
government of national unity, including LURD, MODEL,
GOL remnants and representatives of the major
political parties, would be formed. Participants in
the transitional government would be prohibited from
participating in the 2004 elections.




9. (C) Although factional involvement in the
transitional government might be close to a fait
accompli, factional participation should be
conditioned on performance on disarmament, Chambas and
Kansteiner agreed. Factions should not be allowed to
assume their portfolios until achieving noticeable
progress on disarmament. Additionally, the factions
should not be given control of the security, financial
matters, or access to state revenue.




--------------------------


Domestic Opposition to Obasanjo


--------------------------






10. (C) Chambas and A/S Kansteiner noted that
President Obasanjo faced noticeable domestic
opposition in Nigeria to his asylum offer to Taylor.
Human right groups and others had castigated the
decision. Kansteiner stated that the indictment
against Taylor was more than justified; however, for
the sake of peace in Liberia, the United States
Government and would not criticize Obasanjo for
offering a haven to Taylor in the interest of peace in
Liberia.




--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------




10. (C) The sub-regional call for American troop
deployment is loud and it is clear. The expectation
is high. However, the decision to send American
troops, if it is made, will not be a panacea. We will
still have to work out sticky issues such as timing of
Taylor departure, help for ECOWAS troop contingents
and the establishment of the transitional government.
The more assistance we provide, particularly if that
assistance comes in the form of troops, the more
leverage we will have to influence the resolution of
these other issues and the direction the peace process
will take.


JETER