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Viewing cable 06REYKJAVIK97, MEDIA REACTION FOR MARCH 21-22, 2006: U.S. REMOVAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06REYKJAVIK97 2006-03-22 15:03 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0008
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0097/01 0811558
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 221558Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2645
INFO RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0190
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000097 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NATO FOR MIKIEWICA 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: NATO MARR PREL KPAO IIP ECA IC
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION FOR MARCH 21-22, 2006: U.S. REMOVAL 
        OF AIR ASSETS FROM NAVAL AIR STATION KEFLAVIK 
 
 
1.  Summary: March 21 press coverage of the U.S. decision to 
remove most assets from the base at Keflavik was punctuated 
by PM Asgrimsson's statement that the U.S. decision had 
created a "climate of distrust between the two countries." 
Coverage also focused on NATO SECGEN Scheffer's comments 
that NATO had an obligation to help ensure Iceland's future 
defense arrangements.  The media speculated that the U.S. 
had already decided to pull out of Keflavik when it invited 
the Icelandic side to negotiations in February because the 
base had been zeroed out in the Administration's FY'07 
budget proposal.  End Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
PM Says U.S. Action Has Created "Climate of Distrust" 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
2.  Summary of report in March 21 news daily "Morgunbladid" 
and March 20 Morgunbladid website report: 
 
Almost three hundred Keflavik region residents attended a 
meeting Monday evening where PM Asgrimsson spoke about the 
withdrawal of U.S. from the base at Keflavik.  The PM said 
there were three tasks ahead following the US decision: 
negotiations with the U.S. on Iceland's future defense, 
Iceland needing to assume responsibility for additional 
operations at Keflavik Airport, and addressing the general 
employment situation in the region. 
 
Asgrimsson said President Bush had conveyed a firm intention 
to meet U.S. obligations under the bilateral defense 
agreement and the NATO pact, and that it now remained to be 
seen whether Iceland could rely on that U.S. commitment. 
"It is obvious that a climate of distrust has been created 
between the two countries, given the way in which these 
issues have been handled over the last few days, and it 
remains to be seen whether it will be possible to 
reestablish trust between Iceland and the United States with 
NATO assistance", Asgrimsson said, adding that some have 
suggested that the defense agreement should now be 
cancelled. 
 
Asgrimsson said that U.S. proposals for a replacement 
defense arrangement have not been forthcoming. "We have 
never refused changes, but have so far not received any 
proposals as to what exactly should replace the existing 
capabilities." 
 
Concerning his recent phone conversation with NATO SECGEN 
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Asgrimsson said Scheffer had told 
President Bush in their Washington meeting on Monday that 
this was not only an issue for Iceland but also for the 26 
NATO nations including the United States. 
 
Asgrimsson quoted Scheffer as saying "NATO has obligations 
to Iceland and Iceland has responsibilities to NATO.  Thus 
the Iceland-U.S. Defense agreement is a part of the defense 
readiness of the whole Alliance."  President Bush told him 
that the issue had been decided, and called it modernization 
of the defense of Iceland, and that the U.S. would soon 
present its proposals as to how to achieve that. 
 
The PM said he and Scheffer had agreed it is necessary to 
wait and see what the U.S. proposals will contain, and to 
subsequently review those ideas within NATO. 
 
"In an earlier conversation he (Scheffer) said to me that he 
intended to visit Iceland in the fall, but I emphasized that 
I thought that an earlier visit is required for 
consultations on the issue.  He promised to come as soon as 
possible," Asgrimsson said. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
Justice Minister's Comments at Political Science Conference 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
3.  Summary of Report in March 21 news daily "Morgunbladid": 
 
Speaking at a conference of the Association of Political 
Scientists, Justice Minister Bjorn Bjarnason said things 
must be arranged in such a way that attacking Iceland would 
not be something anyone would attempt without very careful 
preparation, knowing that they would meet resistance and 
that the country would not be easy prey.  Continuing, he 
said that from the government's perspective, the most 
important task is to fill the gap that will be left with the 
departure of the helicopters.  They were the visible symbol 
of national defense and the aspect of operations at Keflavik 
Airport that affected Icelanders most.  At the same time, 
Bjarnason said it was not unexpected that the squadron was 
leaving, as the Icelandic Government had proposed that 
Iceland should take over these operations. 
 
Bjarnason said the U.S. decision had not only provoked 
discussion of Iceland's situation with respect to security 
and defense, but it also concerns neighboring countries on 
the eastern side of the Atlantic.  He said that in his 
opinion there should be an agreement with Denmark on rescue 
missions and security in the North Atlantic, adding that the 
United Kingdom and Norway would also be considering how 
security could best be guaranteed in the region. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
Editorial Criticizes Characterization of Base Pull-out as 
Modernizing Defenses; Emphasizes SECGEN Open to NATO Role 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
4.  Summary of Op-Ed in March 21 news daily "Morgunbladid": 
 
The Americans will simply make fools of themselves if they 
continue using the phrase "modernize the defenses," while at 
the same time saying they will leave only insignificant 
manpower and equipment in Iceland.  They have not answered 
the question as to how they will defend Icelandic airspace, 
protection which all Nato countries believe they require. 
Would people in cities and towns in the U.S. consider it 
modernizing their defenses if doing so meant they had no air 
defense? 
 
It is of course positive that the NATO Secretary General 
acknowledged Iceland's point of view on this whole issue and 
spoke clearly about NATO's responsibility.  It naturally 
strengthens the hope that it will be possible to find a 
solution to Iceland's defense needs in cooperation with the 
alliance as a whole, if negotiations with the U.S. prove 
unsuccessful. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
All News Channel Focuses on Base Being Zeroed out in Budget 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
5.  Summary of NFS TV Evening News Story, March 20: 
 
It was clear in February that the Keflavik base would be 
closed since the U.S. Government decided not to fund any 
operations at the base after October 1st of this year. 
Sources say that this was known as early as the beginning of 
February and this was the reason why Iceland-U.S. defense 
talks were initiated that month.  President Bush submitted 
his budget for FY07 to Congress on February 6 and the 
Administration's budget proposal included not a single 
dollar for the Keflavik base.  Simply put, this means that 
if funding is to be procured for any operation at Keflavik 
after 1 October, those funds must either be taken from other 
programs or additional funding sought from Congress.  A U.S. 
Department of Defense spokesman told NFS News that such a 
supplementary budget request was highly unlikely. 
 
NFS sources say that Foreign Minister Haarde's meeting with 
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on February 2, and the 
 
SIPDIS 
follow-on security talks between U.S. and Icelandic 
delegations, were the result of the fact that funding for 
Keflavik was eliminated from the President's budget.  The 
U.S. wanted to make a last attempt to see how much Iceland 
was willing to contribute to maintain the base.  The 
proposal was not adequate and thus the resulting 
announcement of the base's closure.  But a few days after 
the talks, when the budget was submitted, it should have 
been clear to the Icelandic authorities that they had 
already lost the fight and the base would close before 
October 1. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
French Offer Shoulder, Possibly Commerce 
---------------------------------------- 
6.  Summary of article in March 22 "Morgunbladid": 
 
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told Haarde in 
Paris 21 March that France was "concerned" about the 
situation in the North Atlantic.   Haarde told the press, 
"France is not indifferent to the situation here in the 
North Atlantic, and it is also concerned as a member of 
NATO... our intention is to wait and see what the United 
States proposes... and then we will discuss the issue with 
the other NATO countries in circumstances require... the 
French do produce all kinds of equipment for rescue 
operations, and it is no secret that they are interested in 
selling it... we do already have French helicopters for the 
Coast Guard." 
 
Van Voorst