890E.00/188: Telegram

The Consul General at Algiers ( Wiley ) to the Secretary of State

1990. From Murphy. I received your 2139, November 12, midnight, on my return from Italy this evening and promptly called on Massigli.

Macmillan, with whom I consulted prior to visiting Massigli, arranged to call on the latter immediately afterwards. Macmillan informed me of the instructions received from his Government and the written communication handed to Massigli last evening by Makins in which the British Government demanded the immediate release of the political prisoners arrested in the Lebanon. Before I communicated to Massigli the contents of your instruction under reference he outlined to me the French position which I shall summarize as follows:

The French National Committee of National Liberation, acting within the scope of its mandate, fully intends that action be taken to respect the duly elected government of the Lebanese Republic. Incident to Helleu’s visit to Algiers he had been instructed to the effect that the French Committee desires to ratify the treaty of 1936, which had failed of ratification by the French Parliament. Before Helleu could return to Beirut the Lebanese authorities decided (Massigli intimated that very possibly the action was inspired by Spears) by unilateral action to vitiate the mandate. The French insist that this is irregular in violation of their mandate and, if countenanced, seriously damaging their prestige. Massigli emphasized at this point that his associates, while deploring the hasty and ill-advised acts of violence, nevertheless, believe that they have been jockeyed into a position which is not at all in accord with their intention.

Helleu, according to Massigli, ordered the police action on his own initiative without prior consultation with the Committee. As soon as news of the action was received in Algiers it was decided to despatch [Page 1027] Catroux to Beirut to negotiate a peaceful settlement. He leaves early Sunday morning.

Massigli also stated that Helleu, whose judgement apparently he does not rate highly, would be quietly shelved and that the political prisoners would be released.

However, it is his opinion that unless the French position looking to settlement of the mandate question by negotiation and bi-lateral action is acceptable that the Committee would decide to withdraw its authority and forces from the area as indicated in Chapin’s telegram No. 1986, November 13, 3 p.m.

Summing up Massigli insisted that the French Committee definitely respects the Government of the Lebanese Republic and proposes its complete and early independence to be arrived at in accordance with the terms of the mandate for which the Committee considers itself responsible.

Massigli also complained that the Cairo and Jerusalem radio stations have grossly exaggerated and misrepresented the entire affair. He denied especially a report that the Lebanese officials were seized by Senegalese troops.

I then communicated to Massigli the substance of your present instruction.

Macmillan feels as I do that Massigli is doing his utmost to arrive at a prompt solution which will satisfy the points made in your present telegram.

Sent to Department. Repeated to Beirut, London and Cairo. [Murphy.]