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07NASSAU297 2007-03-09 12:21:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Nassau
Cable title:  

AMBASSADOR AND FM MITCHELL REVIEW PSI, AUTEC,

Tags:   PROV PREL KNNP KTIA BF 
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1. (C) Summary: Ambassador Rood and Foreign Minister
Mitchell met March 7 to review outstanding bilateral issues,
including the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), the
U.S. request to install new sonar arrays at the Atlantic
Undersea Testing and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), the
Ambassador's recent trip to Turks and Caicos, upcoming
Bahamian elections, Cubans in the detention center, and
continuing security and safety problems at the airport.
Mitchell expressed his frustration that, with elections
looming, little was getting done in the government. End
Summary.

Proliferation Security Initiative


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





2. (C) The Ambassador raised the longstanding U.S. request to
conclude a PSI Shipboarding agreement with The Bahamas.
Minister Mitchell stated that the Attorney General's office
had recently generated a 10-page memorandum after reviewing
the U.S. proposal that concluded that The Bahamas could
already undertake all of the requirements of PSI without
signing an agreement. In a newspaper interview earlier this
year, Mitchell had expressed the same view. The Ambassador
requested a copy of the memo to share with Department legal
experts. (Comment: U.S. legal experts had presented two
options to the Bahamian side during discussions in 2005, the
second of which was an amendment to the existing
Comprehensive Maritime Agreement. End Comment.)

Sonar Array for AUTEC


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





3. (C) The Embassy is currently supporting a request by the
Navy to install a new passive Acoustic Measurement Facility
on two new sites on the ocean floor at the Atlantic Undersea
Testing and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) at Andros Island. The
Ambassador raised the U.S. request with FM Mitchell, noting
that a Navy team had provided MFA and other Bahamian
officials a technical briefing on the proposal. The Minister
said he was committed to accommodating the Navy request. He
also inquired if the Embassy could arrange an AUTEC town
meeting with Andros MP Vincent Peet and the Ambassador in
attendance.

Election Season Woes


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





4. (C) The Ambassador briefed Mitchell on his recent trip to
the Turks and Caicos (TCI) to coordinate with the Governor
and Premier on Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT)
strategies following December's Joint Task Force meeting in
Nassau. He noted that the Turks Government had agreed to ban
wooden hulled Haitian vessels from entering the TCI, which
would help stem current drug flows to the U.S. via Haitian
sloops through Turks and Bahamian waters. The Ambassador
encouraged The Bahamas to consider the same step. Mitchell
expressed envy that TCI Premier Missick could quickly call
and hold elections and then move back to governing. FM
Mitchell expressed his frustration at the indecision in his
own government stemming from the pending elections. Mitchell
cited the delay in signing the airport management contract
and the delay in moving ahead with discussions on the Flight
Information Region as two examples. He noted that if the
elections had been called in November and held in December,
the government would either be out of power already or be
finished with the elections and able to govern effectively.

Cubans at the Detention Center


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





5. (C) The Ambassador had previously raised the case of 7
Cubans who the government appears to believe merit refugee
status, but who remain at the detention center awaiting
identification of a country that will receive them. They
have been detained for well over 2 years and are responsible
for setting a December 2004 fire that destroyed part of the
dormitory in which they were living. At the breakfast
meeting with FM Mitchell, the Ambassador urged that something
be done to resolve their cases. The Foreign Minister stated
that Cuba was now unwilling to take them and that all of the
countries that The Bahamas has approached have also declined
to take the 7 Cubans. The FM asked if the United States
could take them; the Ambassador indicated to Mitchell that at
this time it did not appear the U.S. would take them.

Consular Issues


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






6. (C) Mitchell also took the opportunity to raise the case
of a Bahamian currently incarcerated in Alabama who wishes to
be transferred back to The Bahamas. The request was
apparently denied by Alabama authorities. The Ambassador
promised to look into it.

Comment


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





7. (C) Although the human rights report had been released
the day before and made front page headlines, FM Mitchell did
not raise any concerns about the report at the meeting. He
later spoke with the media on the report and sought to
downplay its significance and encouraged the public not to
accept its conclusions uncritically. Mitchell is facing a
very tough campaign in his Fox Hill district and has seemed
increasingly distracted in public venues. he expressed
interest in meeting with Secretary Rice, but revealingly,
noted that "time was running out." His frustrations about
the delay in calling elections no doubt reflect his weariness
at being out on the campaign trail almost non-stop since
September. Elections are likely to be announced sometime
after Easter and are expected in May.


HARDT