890D.00/952: Telegram

The Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Beirut ( Wadsworth ) to the Secretary of State

134. Your 103, March 29, 8 p.m. On March 31 I went to Damascus where by appointment I called on new Foreign Minister Antakipah.28 He stressed the provisional character of the present regime. Its two primary tasks would be to hold free parliamentary elections and to assure food supplies, notably bread, to the cities.

It would he said exercise the legislative power only if the conduct of pressing current matters so required. To all decrees there would be added a specific proviso that they would have effect only until such time as they might be confirmed, modified or rejected by the new parliament.

Syria’s political maturity he argued had been recognized in 1936, its independence in 1941. There was general acceptance in all political circles that the present transitional regime was a necessary prelude to constitutionality and fullest possible exercise of sovereignty consistent with allied “necessities of war”.

Syria would welcome closest cooperation with the United Nations but felt itself free to accept or reject special treaty relations with France. A point to be emphasized he concluded was that the same parliament which ratified the 1936 treaty29 had in 1938, following French failure to ratify, declared itself no longer bound thereby.

My only important contribution to the conversation was a statement in the sense of the last paragraph of the Department’s telegram under reference, which he welcomed.

He then conducted me to the new Chief of State to whom I repeated my remarks. Ata Bey requested me to inform you that he “took note [Page 968] full satisfaction” of this reaffirmation of American policy, adding an expression of confidence in United Nations victory and desire to contribute thereto in fullest possible measure.

Ata Bey and his three Ministers later attended my official reception as did the outgoing and three former Premiers. I was favorably impressed by an obvious general desire to provide against recurrence of bread rioting and get on with the holding of elections. The acid test however will be as to whether they are free or French manipulated. If the latter there is ground for serious apprehension least [lest] serious political rioting ensue.

This morning I called by appointment on new Lebanese Foreign Minister Boulos who will arrange my call on the Chief of State. He spoke in very much the same terms as the Syrian Minister of his Government “provisional and custodial responsibility”.

He too welcomed the Department’s reaffirmation of American policy and reciprocated by reaffirming Lebanese adherence to the United Nations cause “through whose victory Lebanon should realize its aspirations”.

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  1. Naim Antaki.
  2. Franco-Syrian Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, signed at Damascus, December 22, 1936, but never ratified by France; for text, see France, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (année 1936), p. 201.