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08TIRANA895 2008-12-22 06:25:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tirana
Cable title:  

RE: THE WAY AHEAD ON ALBANIANS MUNITIONS

Tags:   PARM PGOV PREL NATO AL 
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1. Summary. On December 16, Ambassador delivered talking
points in reftel a to Minister of Defense Gazmend Oketa. In
response, Oketa noted that he has agreed to provide a letter
to either Secretary Rice or Assistant Secretary Kimmit
reporting progress in Albania's demil efforts. Oketa
reported that with today's destruction of three sheds
containing unstable primer at Polican, both Polican and
Mjekes are technically ready to begin industrial
demilitarization. He admitted the need to improve the
management of demil efforts and suggested a new structure for
demil coordination. He again raised concerns that the USG
has not agreed to help modernize Polican. Oketa acknowledged
under-spending of demil funds as well as MoD funds in general
and described his efforts to ameliorate the situation.
Finally, the Minister of Defense requested that the USG be
the lead-nation in long-term NATO demil assistance in
Albania. End Summary.

STARTING THE LINES


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





2. (C) The destruction today of three sheds at Polican
containing mercury fulminate was widely publicized. In
interviews at the site, Oketa declared Polican and Mjekes
technically ready to begin demilitarization. However, Oketa
acknowledged to the Ambassador that the MoD has yet to
resolve several legal issues (including the legal status of
Polican and Mjekes and their contracts with the MoD) before
demil can actually begin. Oketa has set January 2 as the
"final, final" date for commencement.

MANAGEMENT


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





3. (C) Oketa acknowledged that his current demil czar Fatmir
Bozdo's lack of any legal authority impedes his role in
managing demil efforts. Oketa has suggested a new structure
for his demil coordination team. One step would be to place
Bozdo directly under the CHOD. Comment: It is unclear how
this would alleviate management problems. Sources in the MoD
state that Oketa's original plan was to place the DCHOD in
charge of the demil coordination team, but the DCHOD balked.
Now the sources are saying that the MoD General Secretary
will head the committee. End Comment. Also under the
proposed new structure, Mjekes and Polican - which are
currently quasi non-state entities outside of MoD,s budget -
would return to MoD control, allowing the CHOD to give them
orders and allowing the MoD to use its budget for Mjekes and
Polican.

POLICAN


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





4. Oketa again raised concerns over the disparity of
modernization between Mjekes and Polican (reftel b). He
acknowledged that Mjekes has used its own funds to modernize
and that Polican does not have sufficient funds of its own.
He noted that the MoD has not been able to fund Polican's
modernization because of Polican's non-state status. He
expressed frustration that the USG has allotted USD 8.4
million in assistance and has pledged USD 2 million per year
in the future, but does not use USD 200,000 of it to
modernize Polican (the cost of modernizing based on efforts
Mjekes has made). He expressed confusion as to "why US
contractors are receiving USD 2 million a year" simply to
supervise and advise Albanian demil efforts. His staff
present at the meeting claimed it was their original
understanding that the US contractor would actually be
executing the demilitarization of the 82mm rounds, not just
supervising Albanian efforts.

FUNDING


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





5. The Minister admitted under-spending funds for
demilitarization. He stressed his continued preference for
working with the Ministry of Finance to set up a Special Fund
that would not expire annually. However, he noted the

Minister of Finance's opposition to such a plan. Oketa
highlighted his intention to use some of the existing demil
funds to equip a second line at Mjekes.



6. When the Ambassador addressed under-spending throughout
the MoD budget, Oketa stated that the ministry had failed to
complete several modernization procurements, including
helicopters and night-vision goggles. He noted small efforts
he will take to obligate some funds by the end of the year,
but felt it was better to be publicly honest about the MoD's
procurement mistakes than to push through spending simply to
reach two percent GDP. He stressed that in 2009, the budget
will be one of his highest priorities and he intends to
review it weekly or semi-weekly.

NATO


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





7. The Ambassador pointed out to Oketa that the NATO
Strasbourg Summit would be a perfect time to announce
significant progress on demilitarization and offered to help
Albania get NATO more involved in demilitarization efforts in
Albania. Oketa noted that there had been recent concerns
over Greek remarks at NATO concerning Albanian and Croatian
accession. The Ambassador responded that he thought it
unlikely for Greece to pose opposition to accession this late
in the process. A greater concern to the Ambassador was the
political turmoil in Greece and how it could indirectly slow
down parliamentary ratification of accession to NATO. In
conclusion, Oketa requested that the United States become the
lead nation in future NATO demil assistance in Albania.


WITHERS