890E.00/102: Telegram

The Consul General at Beirut ( Engert ) to the Secretary of State

139. I have spoken to the British Minister regarding my 135, April 15. He would prefer to mention date for the elections but admitted that it would look a little foolish if in the meantime Syria were attacked by Axis. On the other hand he feels that to promise elections only for after the war is too vague and does not satisfy natives who, he says, are constantly accusing the British of having done little or nothing to oblige Free French to implement their declaration of independence.

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I then informed him that the Prime Minister told me some time ago that a fresh census should be taken before any elections are held because the last census was 11 years old and many changes in the population had occurred since then. I said I thought an announcement to the effect that census was being taken to prepare the ground for elections would make an excellent impression and it would not be necessary to set a time for the elections themselves. Spears agreed this might be a possible way out and said that the Prime Minister had already mentioned it to him too.

Spears believes that Catroux is planning to oblige Naccache to resign and to put in somebody like Grimes Harakoury [Beshara el Khoury],8 who would be acceptable to the Maronite Patriarch, and then appoint through the President a kind of Senate which he could fill with followers of the Patriarch while the Chamber could remain in abeyance until after the war. To this scheme Spears is unalterably opposed.

Spears is an able man and we get along extremely well together but he is obsessed with the idea that Catroux is constantly trying to double-cross him by insisting on upholding French prestige at the expense of the British. Truth is that French realize they are disliked by most natives and are, therefore, very touchy regarding everything affecting their position. Catroux if tactfully handled is far more reasonable than most Frenchmen and I am trying to impress upon Spears danger of giving Frenchmen here less wholeheartedly devoted to our cause than Catroux an excuse for wavering at a time when our relations with Vichy are entering upon such a critical stage.

Repeated to London.

Engert
  1. A former Prime Minister of Lebanon.