00BUCHAREST1644 / 2000-07-26 07:00:00
Embassy Bucharest
                S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BUCHAREST 001644 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/NCE WSILKWORTH 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/25/2015 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, MOPS, MARR, EFIN, OVIP, RO, IZ, military cooperation, flood 
SUBJECT: ROMANIA REAFFIRMS STRONG CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR 
CONTINUED TROOP PRESENCE IN IRAQ DESPITE FINANCIAL 
CONSTRAINTS 
 
REF: A. SECSTATE 131524 
     B. BUCHAREST 1609 
     C. BAGHDAD 3010 
 
Classified By: POLITICAL SECTION CHIEF ROBERT S. GILCHRIST FOR REASONS 
1.4 A, B AND D 
 
1. (S) Summary.  President Traian Basescu told an interagency 
team led by Ambassador Richard Jones, Senior Advisor to the 
Secretary and Coordinator for Iraq Policy, July 21 that 
 
SIPDIS 
Romania is "unconditionally committed" to a continued troop 
presence in Iraq.  Basescu highlighted the armed forces' 
financial burdens in light of recent massive domestic flood 
relief efforts and stated that additional USG financial 
support for defense reform might permit Romania to increase 
its contribution in Iraq.  Though not a member of the Paris 
Club, Basescu confirmed that Romania has agreed to Paris Club 
terms and will forgive 80 percent of Iraq's debts, which 
total USD 2.6 billion.  President Basescu also raised 
Romania's request to interview security detainee and 
Iraqi-American citizen Mohammed Munaf, who is a criminal 
suspect in Romania.  Defense Minister Atanasiu reaffirmed the 
GOR's commitment in Iraq but provided insights into cost 
saving measures under consideration by the MOD, including 
possible reductions of overseas deployments in 2006.  Senior 
MFA interlocutors also underscored the GOR's support for a 
continued GOR presence in Iraq, stressing the importance of a 
renewed UNSC mandate as well as an Iraqi government request 
for a Multinational Force (MNF) presence.  End Summary. 
 
President Basescu: Unconditional Commitment to Iraq 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
2. (C) Ambassador Jones initiated the meeting with President 
Basescu, accompanied by State Counselor for National Security 
General Constantin Degeratu and State Counselor for 
International Relations Anca Ilinoiu, by expressing gratitude 
for Romania's steadfast commitment in Iraq.  Ambassador Jones 
singled out Romania's contribution to UN force protection in 
Basra as particularly significant, given that an abiding 
international civilian presence in Iraq, such as the UN 
mission, remains a high priority and constitutes a bellwether 
for other international organizations of improved security 
conditions. 
 
3. (C) Basescu stated that the GOR faces deep budgetary 
problems in the wake of recent severe flooding across Romania 
(Ref B).  He characterized the flood-affected areas as 
covering a "small surface but having a huge impact," with 
bridges, railroads and villages destroyed and thousands 
rendered temporarily homeless.  He noted that the GOR has 
incurred mammoth costs operating an "air bridge" between 
Bucharest and flood ravaged zones.  Naturally, he continued, 
Romania's armed forces have played a key role in providing 
relief and organizing cleanup and repair.  So far, the 
Romanian military has spent about USD 60 million and 
anticipates spending USD 100 million on flood related 
activities.  Flood relief costs have placed tremendous 
pressures on the armed forces' budget.  In addition to limits 
imposed by fiscal constraints, Basescu said that despite the 
absence of "signals from the population" opposing Romania's 
overseas deployments, some journalists could begin to ask 
"Why not use our troops here?" given the urgency of the flood 
crisis. 
 
4. (C) Basescu explained that the armed forces face another 
"major problem" - delays in planned MOD modernization and 
reform this year and in 2004.  "I am really disappointed that 
reform is not going fast enough, there are still too many 
conscripts," the President observed.  (Note: The MOD's goal 
is an all-professional armed forces by 2007.  End Note.) 
Basescu asked if it would be possible for the USG to increase 
support for defense reform. 
 
5. (C) Basescu immediately added, however, "we will not put 
any condition on participation in Iraq and Afghanistan if 
support cannot be increased."  He promised that Romania will 
"remain an ally until the end of the mission, we won't play 
politically."  Romania will not put a "question mark" around 
its participation and "will not in any event diminish 
participation in Afghanistan and Iraq."  Nonetheless, he 
continued, financial support could permit the GOR to consider 
increasing its contribution in Iraq.  Basescu stated that, in 
any event, troop withdrawal by the end of 2006 is 
"optimistic" and "we are mentally prepared for the extension 
of our presence in Iraq." 
 
6. (C) Ambassador Jones expressed appreciation for Basescu's 
realistic assessment of the need for a continued 
Multinational Force (MNF) presence beyond 2006.  Both the 
Ambassador and team member Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US 
Army CENTCOM, discussed ongoing efforts to increase the 
quality of Iraqi security forces, such as embedding MNF teams 
in Iraqi units, with the ultimate goal of enabling the Iraqis 
to take over the fight against terrorists and insurgents.  BG 
Kimmitt underscored that on-the-ground conditions rather than 
an artificial calendar must drive MNF force contributions. 
 
Basescu Proposes Possible Gendarme Training 
------------------------------------------- 
7. (C) Basescu stated he had spoken with the Romanian 
Interior Minister Vasile Blaga regarding possible additional 
contributions Romania could make to strengthen Iraqi 
institutions.  He said that Romania "could send trainers to 
train the gendarmerie in Iraq." BG Kimmitt described the 
enduring need for a well-trained Iraqi gendarmerie and 
outlined possible training modalities.  Basescu affirmed that 
although Romania is a small country with "limited resources" 
it will remain a "solid partner" and contribute in areas 
where it can, such as gendarme training. 
 
Debt Reduction Pledge 
--------------------- 
8. (C) President Basescu stated that following a recent Paris 
Club agreement Romania has decided to reduce its Iraq debt 
(which totals USD 2.6 billion) by 80 percent.  He noted that 
Romania is not a member of the Paris Club but voluntarily 
complied with its debt reduction Recommendation.  Ambassador 
Jones expressed appreciation for Romania's decision to 
substantially forgive its Iraqi debt, observing that among 
the three prongs of international support for Iraq - 
military, political and economic - economic assistance has 
been the weakest prong.  Ambassador Jones noted that Romania 
is a good example for other creditors, especially non-Paris 
Club members and nations like Romania that face financial 
constraints. 
 
Romanian Access to Security Detainee Munaf 
------------------------------------------ 
9. (S) Basescu raised the subject of Iraqi-American national 
Mohammed Munaf, now held as a security internee by Coalition 
Forces in Iraq under the authority of UNSCR 1546, asserting 
that Romanian "prosecutors need to have a discussion with 
him" because of his suspected involvement in the kidnapping 
of three Romanian journalists earlier this year.  He stated 
that the GOR continues to seek the approval of American 
authorities to meet with Munaf for a "four hour discussion." 
He continued that the GOR believes Munaf can provide key 
information about the ongoing prosecution of alleged 
kidnapping mastermind, 
Syrian-Romanian businessman Omar Hayssam, whom Basescu 
asserted is suspected of providing "financial resources to 
terrorists."  Basescu promised that the GOR would "respect 
all procedures" during the interview and would conduct the 
interview in any location designated by the USG, given that 
he is a security detainee.  He added that, pursuant to 
Romanian law, his lawyer would "probably like to attend" the 
interview.  In response to a direct query from Ambassador 
Jones, Basescu said that the interview did not need to take 
place in the Romanian Embassy as a previous diplomatic note 
had indicated.  Ambassador Jones promised to help facilitate 
appropriate GOR access to Munaf.  Regarding Munaf's final 
disposition, Ambassador Jones encouraged Romania to engage in 
a close dialogue with Iraq.  Basescu replied that Romania 
already has an "extremely close" dialogue with Iraq on Munaf 
and other issues. 
 
Committed - But Cautious - Defense Ministry 
------------------------------------------- 
10.  (C) In a separate meeting at the MOD, Defense Minister 
Teodor Atanasiu, accompanied by State Secretary for 
Euro-Atlantic Integration and Defense Policy Ion Mircea 
Plangu and CHOD General Eugen Badalan, began his comments by 
noting that the GOR has "the commitment to remain until the 
Iraqi armed forces can take over."  Atanasiu asserted that 
costs related to the recent flooding compel Romania to 
consider either reducing its overseas deployments or seeking 
"cofinancing."  Absent "substantial financing," Atanasiu 
continued, Romania "should consider reduction of its troops 
overseas by 300" in 2006.  (Note: According to MOD 
statistics, about 1700 Romanian troops are currently deployed 
overseas, with more than 850 in Iraq and 540 in Afghanistan. 
End Note.) 
11.  (C) Atanasiu iterated that "we will maintain our forces 
in Iraq until the Iraqi forces can take over" but Romania 
must consider various options for its 2006 overseas 
deployments including "proportional reductions" or "equal 
reductions."  In the latter alternative, Romania would 
withdraw a total of three companies (i.e. about one hundred 
troops in each company) from the Western Balkans, Afghanistan 
and Iraq.  Atanasiu added that the GOR is currently weighing 
whether to withdraw its frigate from participation in 
Operation Active Endeavor in Mediterranean, with a decision 
likely this month or in August.  Atanasiu and CHOD Badalan 
outlined several possible cost saving measures, including 
overseas deployment reductions, "delay in equipment 
modernization," and cancellation of exercises, before 
concluding that the MOD will consider a "mixture of options" 
for cost saving.  Badalan interjected that the bottom line is 
that the MOD must seek a solution 
to save the 60 million dollars it has already spent on flood 
relief efforts.  Atanasiu explained that the GOR also faces 
"budgetary concerns" related to anticipated EU accession in 
2007, which limit excessive deficits.  BG Kimmitt encouraged 
the MOD and MFA to consult closely with the U.S. before 
making any changes in Romania's force presence overseas.  He 
emphasized that maintaining the force protection unit for the 
UN at Basra is and should remain a top priority. 
 
12.  (C) The CHOD added that the MOD needs to justify its 
activities in a post flood environment, which means telling 
the Romanian people either that money earmarked for overseas 
deployments comes from external sources (read: donors) or the 
MOD is reducing its overseas commitments.  The Charge noted 
that the USG is exploring ways to assist with flood relief. 
 
The Centrality of a UN Mandate 
------------------------------ 
13.  (SBU)  Following a working lunch with MFA officials, MFA 
Director General for Global Affairs Stelian Stoian chaired an 
interagency working group that discussed the GOR's continued 
commitment to a troop presence in Iraq.  Key GOR participants 
were MOD Director General Claudiu Degeratu, External 
Intelligence Service (SIE) Director General Silviu Predoiu, 
Internal Intelligence Service (SRI) Colonel Mihai Munteanu, 
MFA NATO Division Director Mirela Maghiar, and MFA Middle 
East Division Deputy Director Laura Mircea. 
 
14. (C) MFA State Secretary for Global Affairs Teodor 
Baconschi, the de facto number two Foreign Ministry official, 
joined the interagency meeting in progress and reaffirmed the 
GOR's commitment to a continued presence in Iraq as expressed 
earlier in the day by President Basescu's "message."  He 
underscored that the GOR supports the "extension of the 
mandate" authorizing the presence of the MNF, as provided by 
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546.  MFA DG 
Stoian stressed that a new UN mandate should be 
"comprehensive, so that the MNF 
can defend itself and the people, covering all 
possibilities."  Stoian also asked whether the Iraqi 
government "is ready to request officially that the UN 
authorize a military presence in Iraq post-elections?" 
Ambassador Jones observed that Iraq recognizes that a 
continued MNF presence there is essential and the USG will 
engage in "close consultations" with the Iraqis.  (Note: 
UNSC 1546, Articles 9 and 10, provide that the "presence of 
the MNF is at the request of the incoming Interim Government 
of Iraq and that the MNF will have the authority "to take all 
necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of 
security and stability in Iraq."  Senior GOR leaders strongly 
seek a continued UN mandate and explicit Iraqi government 
request for an MNF presence.  Additionally, they recognize 
the importance of robust ROE for MNF participants.  End Note.) 
 
Engaging Reluctant Europeans 
---------------------------- 
15. (C) Baconschi asked about the possible impact on USG 
relations with "new" European states that have "announced 
their intention to withdraw," opining that Romania and Poland 
are the United States' "strongest" Eastern European allies in 
Iraq.  BG Kimmitt noted that the coalition remains solid; 
with the exception of Spain, no other nation in the 62-member 
coalition has formally announced that it is concluding its 
activities in Iraq, although some states have reduced or 
modified their contribution or already carried out their 
pledged contribution.  He continued that the leadership of 
Romania and Poland has been significant in maintaining the 
coalition's solidarity.  Ambassador Jones pointed out that 
after nearly two and one half years the coalition remains 
alive and well. 
 
16. (C) DG Stoian stressed that the GOR, an EU aspirant, now 
participates in the EU working group addressing the 
development of an EU common foreign policy.  The GOR is 
working to "generate support" from EU countries for 
engagement in Iraq and "EU reluctance is not as strong as it 
was one year ago."  Stoian cited the possible engagement of 
gendarme units in training Iraqi forces as one example of how 
the U.S. "can count on Romania to try to get more Europeans 
involved."  Baconschi underscored these remarks by promising 
that the GOR will remain "proactive in the EU and seek a new 
climate among member states." 
 
UN Force Protection 
------------------- 
17. (C) During the interagency meeting, Ambassador Jones 
highlighted the importance of Romania's contributions to UN 
force protection, noting that a successful UN presence 
encourages the presence of other international organization. 
DG Stoian praised UN "experience and expertise" in preparing 
for Iraqi elections and observed that the UN presence boosts 
the electoral process' credibility.  Stoian also solicited 
the team's views about NATO's role in Iraq.  BG Kimmitt 
responded that NATO provides "value added" in Iraq and that 
the MNF and NATO complement each other's activities. 
 
18.  (C) Comment.  The GOR has demonstrated steady progress 
on its defense modernization efforts notwithstanding 
Basescu's expressed concerns about the slow pace of reforms. 
According to a close presidential advisor, Basescu raised the 
topic in order to suggest a possible source of USG funding 
support that would, ultimately, allow the GOR to continue, 
possibly even increase, its impressive troop commitment in 
Iraq.  The Romanians' worries about funding sources in the 
wake of this summer's flooding are well founded.  Over the 
past several weeks, Romania has faced its most serious 
humanitarian crisis since the fall of communism in 1989. 
Humanitarian concerns aside, the financial impact has been 
devastating, not just in the MOD but throughout the GOR, 
which is cash strapped at the best of times.  Against this 
backdrop, overseas deployments could "backfire" against the 
GOR as ordinary Romanians question the presence of Romanian 
troops overseas when their manpower, know how and equipment 
are needed to clean up and reconstruct in the wake of the 
flooding.  Under these circumstances, Romania's unequivocal 
promise to maintain troops in Iraq, its pledge to forgive the 
lion's share of its Iraq debt and its willingness to help 
train Iraqi gendarmes even if additional funding support is 
not available, demonstrate the depth of its engagement to 
building democracy and fighting terrorism in Iraq.   End 
Comment. 
 
19. (U) Amembassy Bucharest's reporting telegrams are 
available on the Bucharest SIPRNet website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest 
 
20. (U) Ambassador Jones cleared this cable. 
TAPLIN 

            
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