740.00112 Navicert/207

The Consul at Tunis (Heisler) to the Secretary of State

No. 523

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith, for such disposition as the Department may deem expedient, copy of a letter dated September [Page 593] 23, 1940, from the Société Tunisienne des Pétroles, Tunis,65 in which a request is made for assistance in the granting of “navicerts” by the British authorities to permit Tunisia to obtain additional petroleum products. The Tunis firm handles the products of the Standard Oil Company in this country, and the firm has been quite insistent in regard to reference to the Department of the request contained in the enclosure.

As pointed out in the enclosure, supplies of petroleum products now in this country are running very low and the local authorities are making every effort to conserve the supplies now on hand. Notwithstanding the efforts of the local authorities, it is not believed that supplies presently available will last more than three or four months.

It is interesting to note that the enclosure points out certain difficulties which may arise in Tunisia when the supplies of gasoline and coal oil are no longer available, such as the inability to continue certain activities in the phosphate and lead mines, farming activities by mechanical means, heating and lighting in various sections, and cooking in a large number of homes, especially in the homes of Arabs where coal oil is used to a very great extent. The local firm fears the outbreak of Arab disturbances when coal oil is no longer available for cooking purposes.

Relative to the assurance of the Tunis firm that no part of any possible supplies received from the United States would be permitted to fall into the hands of the Italians, it is the opinion of the Consulate that complete assurance in this regard is difficult to give at this time, since no one here now seems to be in a position to determine the future policy of the Tunisian Government, which will doubtless be dictated by the Vichy Government. Moreover, there are rumors now circulating in Tunis to the effect that supplies of wheat, barley, and olive oil are being shipped to Gabés, Tunisia, and from there to Libya. If these rumors are true, it is not at all impossible that supplies of petroleum products from the United States might eventually be sent across the border to Libya.

Respectfully yours,

Charles H. Heisler
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