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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03AMMAN4807
2003-08-03 12:14:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Amman
Cable title:  

SESAME-SOWING THE SEEDS OF REGIONAL SCIENTIFIC

Tags:  TSPL TPHY TBIO KSCA EAID SENV JO MEPN 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 AMMAN 004807 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR IO/T ZWEIBEN AND BOOTH, NEA/RA LAWSON, STAS
NEUREITER
WHITE HOUSE FOR OSTP MARBURGER AND OLSEN
PARIS FOR UNESCO OBSERVER AGGELER
VIENNA FOR GOLDMAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TSPL TPHY TBIO KSCA EAID SENV JO MEPN
SUBJECT: SESAME-SOWING THE SEEDS OF REGIONAL SCIENTIFIC
COOPERATION?




1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Second SESAME (Synchrotron-Light for
Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East)
Council meeting, hosted in Istanbul in mid-July, yielded a
productive discussion among the regional members on key
issues such as upgrading of the synchrotron machine, future
scientific programs, training, and finance/administration.
Both Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates officially joined
SESAME since the last meeting in January, increasing
membership to nine but doing little to raise more funds-a
recurring and troublesome stumbling block to SESAME's future
development. Discussion of Libya's request for observer
status was postponed to accommodate the U.S., though not
publicly stated thus. Israeli participation in SESAME,
while generally accepted, still acts as a lightning rod for
heated discussion. EU funding still has not been secured,
but SESAME leadership remains hopeful that $10-15 million
may be forthcoming. SESAME and UNESCO are entertaining the
idea of a Washington roadshow/doorknock to "market" the
project and drum up U.S. financial support. Finally, on a
separate but related matter, UNESCO Director Nalecz confided
to us that UNESCO had been blindsided by the return of the
U.S. to the organization and had mishandled the consultation
process with Washington about future U.S. contributions to
UNESCO. END SUMMARY.



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



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


A NEW MIDDLE EAST RIPE FOR SCIENTIFIC COLLABORATION


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



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





2. (SBU) July witnessed the Second SESAME Council meeting,
an event that was arguably more productive than previous
gatherings because of the concrete status reports and plans
of action delivered by committee chairmen on the project's
scientific, technical, financial, administrative, and
training components. SESAME Chairman, Herwig Schopper,
delivered an upbeat opening statement, welcoming new members
Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates and charging the
member countries to make SESAME a reality and "not just a
virtual laboratory." "The new political situation in the
Middle East region offers SESAME new opportunities to
promote science and encourage regional cooperation," he
announced. On the margins, there was talk of inviting the
Iraqis to join, once a government was in place.



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


EXPANDING THE CIRCLE


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





3. (SBU) The U.S. received a special acknowledgement for
moving quickly to become SESAME's first official observer.
SESAME is awaiting official membership decisions from
Morocco and Greece, both formerly on the Interim Council,
and will approach Muscat about Omani membership. The
current official members are Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Israel,
Jordan, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Turkey, and the
United Arab Emirates.



4. (SBU) Schopper described Libya's request to become an
observer of SESAME as a "delicate point" for some countries
and moved to postpone any discussion until all had a chance
to consult with their respective governments. On the
margins of the meeting, Schopper confided to NEA Regional
Environment Officer that he had deferred any decision on
Libya as a gesture to Washington, but asked that the State
Department determine its position on this by the next
council meeting in December. The Israeli delegation told us
separately that their government had no objections to Libya
becoming a SESAME observer.



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


BRICKS AND MORTAR . . . . . AND MONEY


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





5. (SBU) Thanking the Jordanian government for completing
the contracting on the construction of the facility,
Schopper shared his hope that a tangible symbol of the
project would help to propel SESAME forward. Nevertheless,
he underscored the need to make the project operational by
securing funding for the upgrade of the synchrotron light
machine and the beamlines, as well as recruiting and
training staff. Schopper appealed to the member states to
convince their governments, politicians, and publics that
SESAME is a project worthy of support. "I don't think that
an annual $50,000 contribution will suffice-each member
state should expect an increase in annual contributions,"
Schopper warned at the outset, underscoring SESAME's
greatest challenge.



6. (SBU) The EU remains uncommitted to funding SESAME and
the EU 2004 budget reportedly has already been allocated
elsewhere, but Schopper remains hopeful. Because the SESAME
facility is physically located in Jordan, it was decided
that Amman should raise the issue of EU funding in its
bilateral consultations with Brussels. Jordanian Education
Minister Toukan confirmed that his government is already in
close contact with the EU about SESAME. While "things are
looking positive, no decisions have been made" and Jordan
will continue its lobbying efforts, Toukan added.



7. (SBU) Herman Winick of Stanford University remarked that
a positive EU evaluation might influence any future U.S.
decision to support SESAME. Winick added that he continues
to work on the export licensing requirements and
transportation options with DOE and DOC for the excess
dismantled equipment from his lab. He reported for the
first time that other U.S. labs and facilities would have
the first right of refusal to Stanford's decommissioned
light machine. Schopper reported that the technical
committee had redesigned the machine to upgrade the power
from 2GeV to 2.5GeV, as recommended by an EU evaluation
team-a move designed to curry favor with Brussels.



8. (SBU) The beamlines committee report concluded that, in
addition to the approximately $12-15 million needed for
upgrading the machine, beamlines were also likely to
increase the development costs of SESAME. The chairman
estimated that three beamlines would require about $16.5
million, while five beamlines would require upwards of $20
million. The French observer reiterated his offer from
January that beamlines may be available from a light source
being dismantled in France in the December 2003 timeframe.



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


CART BEFORE THE HORSE?


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





9. (SBU) On a positive (but possibly premature) note, the
scientific committee reported that it had already received
about 50 excellent scientific proposals requiring use of the
SESAME machine. These were in myriad scientific, medical,
environmental, and archaeological fields. According to the
chairwoman, it was a "promising start for the users
community."



10. (SBU) On training and capacity building, the respective
committee raised the recurring problem of training regional
scientists who later migrate to other institutions because
SESAME is not yet up and running. Schopper encouraged
member states to become more aggressive in pursuing training
opportunities. For example, money provided by IAEA for
training remains unused and a Brazilian offer to train three
scientists has only elicited a sole nominee from Jordan to
date.



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


REGIONAL HOT SHOTS; REGIONAL POT SHOTS


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





11. (SBU) One of two political flaps that transpired during
the SESAME meeting was over the location of the next
training session. In what could be described as either an
unintentional shortsighted blunder or a deliberate attempt
to isolate a member country, the training committee, chaired
by a scientist from Iran, recommended Isfahan, Iran. The
Egyptians quickly supported the suggestion; however, the
Israeli delegation protested, citing their inability to
travel to Iran. After a brief and somewhat heated
discussion, it was agreed that the Israelis would attempt to
apply for Iranian visas, since SESAME fell under a UNESCO
umbrella which may provide some cover, with the
understanding that if not issued another site would be
identified for the training.



12. (SBU) The second contentious issue was a pointed comment
by the Palestinian delegation about its good track record in
meeting financial contribution requirements while their
Israeli neighbors have thus far not ante-ed up. The
Palestinians were quick to point out that they had complied
under difficult political and economic circumstances and
questioned more broadly why other member states were
delinquent. The charge didn't seem to resonate, as many of
the participating countries are guilty of not contributing
their $50,000 annual dues.



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


ON THE ROAD . . . . .WITH HAT IN HAND


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





13. (SBU) Financing remains a major sticking point for
SESAME. The 2003 budget is only about $350,000 but seems
sufficient for what the project is doing at the moment. On
the topic of getting donor support for SESAME, Director of
UNESCO's Division of Basic and Engineering Sciences Maciej
Nalecz (with broad support from the member countries)
suggested that he and Schopper do a "road show" to
Washington to pitch SESAME to U.S. policymakers with an eye
toward getting an earmark from expected U.S. UNESCO funds.
Possible appointments include the Secretary's Science and
Technology Adviser Dr. Norm Neureiter and OSTP Director Dr.
John Marburger. According to Nalecz, Dr. Marburger visited
UNESCO in April, at which time he was briefed on SESAME and
expressed interest. Nalecz also met with Dr. Kathy Olsen,
Associate Director for Science at OSTP in late June to
discuss U.S. re-entry into UNESCO. According to him, Olsen
indicated that Washington was looking to fund the
International Oceanographic Commission and satellite
monitoring of climate change. Nalecz requested SESAME also
receive priority attention.



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


UNESCO OFF BALANCE


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





14. (SBU) On the separate but related subject of the return
of the U.S. to UNESCO, Nalecz separately shared with us some
thoughts and concerns. He said that UNESCO was "caught off
guard" by the U.S. announcement last fall by the President
at the UNGA. Since then, he admitted, UNESCO has not done a
good job of consulting with Washington about future U.S.
contributions. He said that UNESCO officials assumed that
the U.S. contributions would expand the current UNESCO
budget; however, he has since learned that Washington plans
to contribute its UN dues formula as a percentage of the
current UNESCO budget. Effectively, there will be no
increase in UNESCO funding, just a reapportionment of
contributions. Nalecz said the UK has the most to benefit
from the return of the U.S. to UNESCO, as its financial
burden will drop the most significantly. Other countries
will also benefit, as their contributions will also drop in
real terms. He wryly said that Washington had gained
positive public relations for returning to the organization,
but not increasing the UNESCO budget. Moreover, he thought
this approach would likely have the full backing of the
poorer nations, as their contributions would be reduced.
Finally, Nalecz lamented the fact that UNESCO would
effectively face a nearly $100 million shortfall--the $67
million expected from the U.S. (over the next two years)
would not be supplementing the current UNESCO budget, and
the approximately $30 million extra budgetary funds from
Washington--for which he was very grateful--even when it
wasn't a UNESCO member he expected to go away.

GNEHM