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2005-05-25 16:33:00
Embassy Algiers
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ALGIERS 001049 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2015

Classified By: Ambassador Richard W. Erdman; reasons 1.4 (B)(D)


1. (C) Over May 24 lunch with Ambassador, MOD Secretary
General Senhadji expressed great satisfaction with his
Washington visit and the inaugural session of the Joint
Military Dialogue. He also indicated Algeria would approve a
SOFA for the June Flintlock exercises; reaffirmed Algerian
interest in concluding a long-term SOFA agreement; and said
Armed Forces Chief Gait-Salah's visit to Russia was routine
and would not produce anything "dramatic" (i.e., a MIG deal),
a point explicitly confirmed by Presidential Chief of Staff
Belkheir in a subsequent conversation. On the lack of a
response on a Blue Lantern request, Senhadji indicated he had
not known the contract in question (concerning a purchase
from a South African firm) contained a Blue Lantern provision
and asked for the documentation, leaving the impression they
would respond if their contractual obligation was documented.
On C-130H gunships, Senhadji reaffirmed Algeria's preference
for the purchase of new gunships, as opposed to converting
existing C-130s. On terrorism statistics, he acknowledged a
considerable discrepancy between the numbers presented at the
JMD and public statements by GOA officials. He explained
that President Bouteflika always referred to the number of
"terrorist victims" rather than the number of "dead" -- a
much broader concept since virtually all Algerian families
were touched by terrorism one way or another. Regarding the
Western Sahara issue, Senhadji saw an autonomy outcome as
the only real solution and regretted that Morocco had
rejected the Baker Plan, since it had provided a way to reach
that goal while honoring the self-determination principle.
(End Summary)




2. (C) Ambassador and DATT lunched with MOD Secretary General
MG Senhadji May 23 at his invitation to review the results of
the Joint Military Dialogue. Ambassador congratulated
Senhadji on his Washington visit, noting it seemed to have
achieved everything we set out to achieve -- the creation of
a mechanism for regular, high-level consultations to guide
and facilitate our expanding military cooperation, a better
understanding of the Algerian military's commitment to
modernization and professionalization, and a strong
reaffirmation of our commitment to expanded counterterrorism
cooperation. Senhadji said he was extremely pleased with the
visit and with his many meetings and appreciative that
Secretary Rumsfeld had received him so warmly.




3. (C) Ambassador said that he had presented a demarche to

Foreign Minister Bedjaoui May 21 regarding a SOFA to cover
Exercise Flintlock 2005. The Minister had said the Ministry
would consider the proposed exchange of notes on an exercise
SOFA "positively." Ambassador thanked Senhadji for having
spoken to Bedjaoui about the SOFA issue following his return
from the JMD discussions. Senhadji reiterated his strong
support for a long-term SOFA and said the Algerian government
would certainly sign an agreement covering the Flintlock
exercise, since preparations for the exercise were so far
along, the exercise was less than two weeks away, and it was
important for developing our cooperation.



4. (C) Ambassador asked about Armed Forces Chief Gait-Salah's
May 22-26 visit to Moscow. Asked if the visit would produce
anything dramatic or of interest, Senhadji said the visit was
a routine exchange, in response to an invitation from the
Russian Ministry of Defense. That said, Algeria still did a
lot of business with the Russians because so much of their
equipment was ex-Soviet and they needed spare parts. The
current visit involved day-to-day business between the two
militaries, he said, leaving the strong impression that no
deal on MIGs was imminent, as has been rumored in the local
press. In a separate May 24 conversation, Presidential Chief
of Staff Belkheir also confirmed to Ambassador that the visit
was routine. He explicitly stated the visit would not/not
produce a deal on MIGs, noting that Gait-Salah was not
empowered to make any such decision.



5. Ambassador recalled that last February he had raised with
Senhadji our concerns about the lack of an Algerian response
to a Blue Lantern request, explaining that the failure to
respond could complicate future sales. DATT noted that he
had also sent a letter to the Directorate of Exterior
Relations and Cooperation (DREC) over a month ago and had not
received a response. The two Blue Lantern cases in question
involved the sale of American-made equipment to the Algerians
through a South African firm. Senhadji initially responded
that the issue was between the U.S. and the South African
firm and that Algeria had already given end-use assurances to
the South African firm. It should not have to provide two
such assurances, he said. DATT helpfully clarified that when
the Algerians signed the contract, they agreed to the Blue
Lantern provisions and thus had an obligation to respond to
our request. Upon learning this, Senhadji asked DATT to
provide copies of the appropriate documentation to his
executive assistant (who was present at the lunch). DATT
will provide documents as soon as possible.



6. (C) Ambassador and DATT noted that during the Joint
Military Dialogue the previous week, the subcommittee on
security assistance addressed the issue of C-130 gunships,
which the Algerians have expressed an interest in acquiring.
According to unofficial minutes prepared by a EUCOM
representative, the Algerians stated that they wanted to
convert one or two of their current C-130s rather than
purchase a new gunship. Senhadji expressed surprise at
hearing this, saying Algeria wanted to purchase new gunships.
DATT subsequently spoke with our Security Assistance Officer
who had participated in the subcommittee session. The latter
clarified that the Algerian members of the subcommittee did
state that such a conversion was a viable alternative, given
that there were no more C-130H models available for purchase
and that on their return to Algeria they would examine the
conversion option. Their original position, however, was
that Algeria wanted to purchase additional aircraft. DATT
will ensure that the position of the Algerian military is
clarified with EUCOM and DSCA.



7. (C) Ambassador said he had been struck by the Algerians'
JMD briefing on the numbers killed in terrorism incidents and
the number of remaining armed terrorists. The total numbers
killed, in particular, were far lower than the
100,000-150,000 figures mentioned in various statements by
senior Algerian officials. Senhadji insisted that the
figures presented (10,700 civilians, 6,000 military, and
16,400 terrorists killed; 14,963 civilians, 10,000 military
wounded, 34,800 terrorists arrested, 7,000 terrorists
surrendered) were the real figures. The other figures used
by political officials had been "political figures."
Explaining part of the discrepancy, he said that in citing
figures, President Bouteflika always referred to the number
of "victims," not the number of "dead." Obviously, the
"victims" category was a much broader concept that literally
would include all Algerians, since virtually every family in
the country was touched by terrorism, one way or another.

8. (C) In this context, Senhadji recalled his recent
conversation with Deputy NSC Adviser Abrams, who had asked if
terrorism could ever take hold again in Algeria. He had
unhesitatingly replied that it could not. The people, he
explained, had been fooled once, but they were not stupid and
now understood that terrorism had been directed against them.
He recounted how in the early 1990s, the people accepted the
Islamic terrorists' line that burning schools, police
stations, post offices, and the like was warranted because
they had been told it was the religiously correct thing to
do. But they changed their views about the terrorists when
the actions of these groups began to touch them personally,
with the raping of their wives and daughters. This, along
with the arming of local militia and patriotic groups, had
been the real turning point in the war against terrorism
inside Algeria. The decision to arm local groups, he
recalled, had been very difficult but, once taken, it quickly
became apparent it was the right thing to do because it
reinforced the public's willingness to confront the



9. (C) Senhadji stressed that the stability of Morocco and
the stability of the throne were important to regional
stability and to Algeria's national interests. He clearly
pointed to autonomy as the solution to the Western Sahara
issue, noting with regret Morocco's rejection of the Baker
Plan, whose provisions for a 5-year period of autonomy could
have been managed so as to produce the outcome Morocco needed
(i.e., sovereignty over the Western Sahara). He also
regretted that the Western Sahara had been such a divisive
issue for Morocco and Algeria because on almost all other
counts -- ethnicity, language, culture, religion -- both
shared much in common. He volunteered that the Western
Sahara issue was one on which all Moroccans felt strongly.
By contrast, Algerians did not focus on the Western Sahara
very much or nearly so strongly. Nonetheless, Algeria's
position supporting self-determination had remained constant
over the years in supporting the Sahrawi right of
self-determination. Algeria could not deny to the Sahrawis
what Algeria had claimed for itself in the struggle against
the French.

10. (C) Ambassador said his personal analysis was that since
integration was unacceptable to the Sahrawis and independence
was unacceptable to the Moroccans, that left the autonomy
option as the only viable outcome where there was some common
ground. Accordingly, this is what everyone should be working
to achieve while honoring the principle of
self-determination. The U.S. position was that the principle
of self-determination needed to be respected and that working
for improved Moroccan-Algerian relations was the best way to
proceed, since it would help create a regional climate more
conducive to settlement of the Western Sahara issue.
Ambassador added that he did not see how an independent state
outcome would serve Algerian national interests, since such a
state inevitably would be weak, have porous borders, invite
outside influence, and provide a haven for terrorists like
the Sahel. Senhadji, having just commented that the
principal strategic threats to Algeria come from the south,
did not respond directly but clearly took the point.