Saturday, February 19, 2011

US Embassy #Libya Issues Warden Msg for Protests and Violence in Six Cities

On February 19, the US Embassy in Tripoli issued a Warden Message to advise U.S. citizens of reported protests and violence  in the Eastern Libyan cities of Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Al-Bayda, Al Marj, Derna and Tobruk.  It recommends that  non-essential travel to these cities be deferred.

Anti-government  demonstrations have  reportedly occurred in Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Al-Bayda, Al Marj, Derna and Tobruk.  There are reports of violence, injuries and deaths.    The U.S. Embassy wishes to advise U.S. citizens of the occurrence of these demonstrations, the reports of violence, and the potential for further such incidents, and that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can quickly turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  In addition, U.S. citizens should be advised that there may be unannounced changes to road access in and nearby those cities. The U.S. Embassy recommends deferring non-essential travel to Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Al-Bayda, Al Marj, Derna and Tobruk.

U.S. citizens are urged to exercise extreme caution, avoid areas where demonstrations are likely to occur such as government offices and public squares, and to immediately leave an area if a demonstration begins. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.   U.S. citizens should keep a low profile, exercise caution when traveling around the country, and avoid crowds and areas where demonstrations may occur.

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is located in the Ben Ashour neighborhood on Jeraba Street behind the former Libyan-Swiss Clinic.  Our phone numbers are +218 (0)21-337-3250 during business hours or 091-220-5207 (after-hours number for emergencies involving U.S. citizens only).
Read more here.

According to a two year old OIG inspection report of US Embassy Tripoli, post is staffed by 33 direct-hire Americans and 129 LE staff, including the 80 direct-hire local guard force. Embassy Tripoli’s program budget for FY 2008, including diplomatic security, public diplomacy (PD), and representational budgets was approximately $6.1 million.

The consular section provides support for over 500 registered Americans resident in Libya. The actual number of Americans in the country may be hard to pin down because according to the IG, "people do not want to be identified as American or be in contact with the Embassy."

The 2008 IG report indicates that "maintaining and enhancing Libya’s cooperation in the Global War on Terror is one of the Embassy’s principal priorities. This is an area where U.S. and Libyan interests coincide, because, in the Libyan view, our cooperative efforts enhance regime stability."

Consular relations was described as "poor," and points to the limits and delays on Libyan visas for American citizens. Underscoring the difficulties of US diplomats operating under Moammar Gadhafi's regime, the inspection team also describes a reporting environment characterized by "official harassment, stringent travel restrictions, and the capricious nature of Libyan Governmental and quasi-government contacts."  On human rights, the ability to investigate is limited as "the Government of Libya is not interested in engaging on these issues."  The embassy's political officers' attempts to gather information for these reports were met with negative reactions from the Government of Libya and translates to more stringent travel restrictions seen by the embassy as "retaliation."

To recap the troubled history of our US Mission in Tripoli:

The Legation in Tripoli was established Dec 24, 1952, with Andrew G. Lynch as Charg√© d'Affaires ad interim. Our first U.S. Ambassador was Foreign Service officer, Henry S. Willard who presented his credentials on Mar 6, 1952 and left post on  Jun 24, 1954. In September 25 of that year, the Legation in Libya was raised to Embassy status.  Fast-forward to 1972 where the United States withdrew its Ambassador to Libya. All remaining U.S. Government personnel were also withdrawn and the Embassy was closed after a mob attacked and set fire to the Embassy on December 2, 1979.  The embassy was burned during protests over allegations that the United States was involved in the Grand Mosque Seizure in Mecca.

Direct diplomatic presence resumed on February 8, 2004 after a 24-year hiatus, with the arrival of U.S. personnel to the U.S. Interests Section in Tripoli. The mission was upgraded to a U.S. Liaison Office on June 24, 2004. On May 31, 2006 the United States and Libya exchanged diplomatic notes confirming the upgrade of the U.S. Liaison Office to a U.S. Embassy. This exchange of notes followed Secretary of State Rice’s announcement and report to the U.S. Congress, on May 15th, of her intent to upgrade diplomatic
representation with Libya.

Career diplomat Gene Cretz was nominated by President Bush in 2007 to be Ambassador to Libya and was finally confirmed on November 20, 2008. For the first time in 36 years, the United States sent am ambassador to Libya. Although there had been multiple news that Ambassador Cretz may be recalled over the WikiLeak cables, he continues to be listed as the chief of mission at US Embassy Libya, and the WH has not announced any nominee as successor.  

In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Libyan National Security Advisor Dr. Mutassim Qadhafi at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC.  He is also known as Mutassim Billah, and is the King of King's 4th son.


Photo from state.gov

In May 2010, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wilson and Libya's General People’s Committee for Economy, Industry, and Trade Under Secretary Sarkez signed a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). On December last year, the two governments meet for the first TIFA talks.

According
to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, total two-way trade in 2009 between Libya and the United States was valued at $2.6 billion. Libya is the United States’ 69th-largest goods trade partner. Top U.S. exports to Libya include vehicles, machinery, agricultural products, medical instruments, and iron and steel products. Oil was Libya’s principal export to the United States in 2009.

That's not a high-volume trade. Not sure how much influence the United States has over an aging dictator who has marched for 41 years at his own tune. 
 





Related post:

Our Man in Tripoli, 36 Years Later | Diplopundit | Nov 24, 2008

Wiki-Weapons of Mass Distraction Fallout: the Firing Squad is Lining Up Here and There ...|December 6, 2010






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