890D.01/708: Telegram

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

291. Reference my 285 October 2, 2 p.m.;71 and 290, October 8, 8 p.m.72 At call on Syrian Foreign Minister73 in Damascus yesterday he expressed keen satisfaction at vote of confidence given Lebanese Government, admitting readily that he and Syrian Premier74 had collaborated unofficially with Lebanese Foreign and Prime Ministers75 in drafting latter’s declaration of policy. The four Ministers are to meet formally next week with view to elaborating (and probably announcing) common program “designed to achieve organization of their respective independencies”.

[Page 997]

Spears76 and Helleu77 who at Ministers’ invitation have been in Damascus over week end had already, he explained, been told of this intention and urged to facilitate early definition of powers Allies (i.e. British and French) consider they must retain under formula “limitations necessitated by conditions of war” and transfer to Levant Governments of all the powers, notably those of essentially internal concern.

It was he said not only question of transfer of “common interests” services; basic definition of what is meant by “independence” is also involved; the French should no longer “legislate regarding internal matters”. There was already informal agreement between Levant Governments that most desirable procedure would be to set up joint Syro-Lebanese Conseil Supérieur pour l’Administration des Services des Intérêts Communs, leaving for later determination all questions of division of revenues and possible eventual separation of certain services.

Spears he believed was desirous of facilitating realization of this policy but Helleu was non-committal averring that before discussion he would have to await early expected return of Chataigneau78 from Algiers with instructions (see last paragraph my 277 September 17, 5 p.m.79)

In this connection Minister seemed seriously concerned at de Gaulle’s80 current assumption of powers of Chief of Government and reference to “indestructible friendships” in the Levant in his Ajaccio speech October 8th. He had already gathered from French that they had every intention of conducting themselves as a government despite British and American formulae recognition; one French argument being that “Russia quite as influential as Britain and America” had accorded unqualified recognition to Committee of Liberation which consequently held itself competent to exerc[ise] [apparent omission] being typical of hardening local French attitude he repeated with unconcealed distaste reputed recent comment by Helleu’s chief diplomatic assistant that “independence Libanaise est une plaisanterie”.

Minister will defer addressing note to me regarding status of our representation pending some clarification of this involved situation, [Page 998] and he seemed readily willing to include therein assurance referred to in Department’s 254, October 5, 8 p.m.81

He now expects to leave about week hence for Cairo Arab unity discussions in which connection he wishes to meet Kirk.82 While there, he would also welcome opportunity to discuss with Landis83 possibility of extending direct Lend-Lease aid to Syria. Department may wish to instruct Cairo regarding latter.

  1. Ante, p. 994.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Jamil Mardam.
  4. Saadallah al-Jabiri.
  5. Selim Tacla and Riad es-Solh, respectively.
  6. Maj. Gen. Edward L. Spears, head of the British Mission in Syria and Lebanon.
  7. Jean Helleu had in early July succeeded Gen. Georges Catroux as Delegate General and Plenipotentiary in Syria and Lebanon of the French Committee of National Liberation, General Catroux assuming a position with the French National Committee as Coordinator of Moslem Affairs.
  8. Yves Chataigneau, Secretary General on the staff of M. Helleu.
  9. Not printed.
  10. Gen. Charles de Gaulle, Co-Chairman of the French Committee of National Liberation.
  11. Ante, p. 995.
  12. Alexander C. Kirk, Minister in Egypt.
  13. James M. Landis, U.S. Director of Economic Operations in the Middle East and principal U.S. representative, with the personal rank of Minister, Middle East Supply Center at Cairo.