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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ABUJA1367
2003-08-12 07:28:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

MEETING WITH PRESIDENT OBASANJO

Tags:  PREL MASS MOPS PHUM LI 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001367 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/11/13
TAGS: PREL MASS MOPS PHUM LI
SUBJECT: MEETING WITH PRESIDENT OBASANJO


REF: A) State 217935
B) State 226543
C) Monrovia 902
D) Telcon Charge-Ambassador Bogosian 8/10/03 and
E) Telcon Liberi-Arrieti 8/10/03


Classified By Charge Dawn Liberi. Reasons 1.5 (b) and
d).


1) (C) Summary: In private meeting with Charge,
President Obasanjo disclosed plans for Charles Taylor
arrival in Nigeria; confirmed meeting with LURD leader
Conneh on 8/10/03; and indicated some next steps he
proposes to take to deal with security issues in the
Delta. Charge was able to deliver all demarches
outlined in reftels during this meeting. In addition,
Charge was able to inform President Obasanjo about the
change in Ambassador Steinberg's scheduled arrival at
post. End Summary.


2) (SBU) Charge Liberi held a private one on one
meeting with President Obasanjo at his Villa residence
Sunday evening August 10. The meeting lasted about
twenty minutes during which time the four subjects
indicated in the Summary paragraph were discussed.
After thanking President Obasanjo for granting the
meeting, Charge opened the discussion by explaining
the change with Ambassador Steinberg's arrival at Post
originally scheduled for later this month. President
Obasanjo understood and was sympathetic to the issue.
He appreciated being informed personally by the Charge
and indicated that the arrangement for Embassy
representation proposed by DOS would be acceptable to
him. Charge confirmed that a Diplomatic Note would be
forthcoming.


3) (C) Turning attention to Liberia, President
Obasanjo confirmed that Charles Taylor would be
arriving in Nigeria on Monday August 11 after
resigning from office, accompanied by President Kufour
and possibly President Mbeki. President Obasanjo
indicated he would welcome the party at the Abuja
airport, before it flew on to its Calabar destination.
He also indicated that Taylor had already sent 17
members of his entourage to Calabar and that the
Nigerians had agreed to take in a total of up to 35
members of the contingent. Charge thanked Obasanjo
for his leadership on the issue and per the demarche
in refs (a) and (b) reiterated the need to ensure that
Taylor left Liberia asap after resigning as President.


4) (C) As a side note, President Obasanjo said that a
Nigerian C-130 had taken "materials" for NIBATT 2
deployment to Monrovia that day and had returned with
(some of) Taylor's household effects. He said it was
cheaper than paying for commercial shipment of
Taylor's HHE, and that it addressed Taylor's concerns
about receiving his goods intact. When queried
specifically about whether or not the "materials"
shipped to Monrovia included APCs, Obasanjo said
"yes." (Comment: it was not clear that Obasanjo was
focussed on the question related to APCs, and probably
just said yes inadvertently. In subsequent
discussions with the DATT, it has been ascertained
that APCs can't fit on C-130s, so Obasanjo was clearly
referring to other materials. End comment)


5) (C) Obasanjo then indicated he had met earlier in
the day with "one of the other boys" - LURD leader
Sekou Conneh. Conneh had requested assistance from
Obasanjo in the form of money and a four wheel vehicle
to eventually drive from Conakry to Monrovia, to which
Obasanjo agreed. Obasanjo also indicated that Conneh
had assured him that LURD would allow peaceful access
to Freeport. Per telcon, ref (c) Charge asked if
Conneh had signed the "unilateral agreement."
Obasanjo indicated he wasn't sure Conneh had signed
the document, though didn't think so. However,
Obasanjo said he felt Conneh would be good to his word
on allowing access to the port, particularly since it
would essentially involve turning it over to Nigerian
ECOMIL troops.


6) (C) On the peace agreement and transition phase,
Obasanjo indicated that Conneh had conceded to having
"technocrats" as opposed to "politicals" in the three
key positions of President, Vice-president and Speaker
(though Conneh wanted them named Chair and Vice-Chair
in lieu of the presidential titles). Obasanjo
confirmed that the total transition would be an 18-24
month endeavor. (Comment: Conneh clearly played to
Obasanjo as a major powerbroker in this equation,
referring to him as "Father" though Obasanjo's retort
to Charge was "I'm not sure I want to be seen as a
"father" to a rebel." End comment). Obasanjo summed
up the discussion on Liberia saying he was pleased
with how things were moving and that "no major
problems or issues had occurred and that deployment
would continue as scheduled." (Comment: The clear
implication was that deployment would occur on the
Nigerian timetable, and that they were in the driver's
seat on this issue. End comment)
7) (C) Moving the conversation closer to home, Charge
referred to the meeting earlier in the week (when
Obasanjo convoked members of the diplomatic corps to
discuss oil bunkering and fighting in the Delta) and
asked Obasanjo how he thought the situation was
evolving in the Delta region. Obasanjo indicated that
he would intervene personally and shortly call all of
the Nigerian principals to Abuja to iron out a
solution to the fighting and oil bunkering. He
indicated discussions would take place over a 2-3 day
marathon session in Abuja until there was an agreed
upon "solution." Somewhat vexed, Obasanjo indicated
he was doing this because there was a "stupid"
governor in Delta State (James Ibori) who was off
travelling instead of dealing with the situation.
(Ibori is said to be on a 45th birthday vacation and
is out of the country for two weeks). (Comment:
Obasanjo's indignation at Ibori's travel schedule
during a tense political time is a bit of the pot
calling the kettle black, given past criticism of his
own frequent flyer miles. End comment). Obasanjo did
not refer to any imminent military intervention nor
did he indicate that he had deployed additional troops
to the area.


8) (C) The situation in the Delta remains tense and
significant military presence has been moved to the
region. It is now thought that a military
intervention is planned for later this week, after
Charles Taylor's move and the visit of the British
Deputy Minister of Defense who will be in Abuja August
12 and 13. This could take place as early as Thursday
but more likely Friday/Saturday.


9) (C) At the end of the meeting Charge asked if
Obasanjo wanted to send any message to Washington to
which he replied "just that we are doing what we are
supposed to be doing (vis a vis Liberia)". Charge
thanked the President again for his time and indicated
the message would be passed on as requested.


LIBERI