Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Ailing)

Mr. Hayter35 called to inform the Department of the steps which the British Government had taken in regard to the situation in the Lebanese Republic.

On the morning of November 11 Mr. Casey, the British Minister of State at Cairo, was informed that the British Government considered that the military situation demanded that order be kept in the Lebanon. If necessary, British forces were to intervene to maintain order. Mr. Casey was to inform the French, the Lebanese and the Syrians that the British could not tolerate disorders during the war. He was to suggest that the French come to a modus vivendi with the Lebanese and with the Syrians and suggest that a conference might be in order, to be attended by representatives of France, the Lebanon, Syria, the United Kingdom and the United States. Such a conference might assist in drawing up a provisional arrangement between France and the Levant States.

Mr. Macmillan at Algiers and Mr. Spears, the British Minister at Beirut, were to take action in accordance with the foregoing.

Later in the day the Foreign Office learned of the action taken by M. Helleu in arresting Lebanese officials. Thereupon further instructions were sent to Mr. Casey. These instructions, which were to be carried out by Mr. Macmillan at Algiers, were to urge the withdrawal of M. Helleu and the release of the Lebanese officials who had been arrested. The view was expressed that the Lebanese Chamber should continue in suspension until calm had been restored but that it should be permitted to reassemble at the earliest possible date. Authority was given for the use of British forces to maintain order.

At the same time, Mr. Macmillan was instructed to point out the deplorable effect which the French coup d’état had had in London.

On the following day, November 12, two telegrams were sent to Mr. Casey for action by Mr. Macmillan at Algiers. The first of these telegrams pointed out that the situation in the Lebanon had grown worse and worse and the French action more and more outrageous. As a result, excitement was growing throughout the entire Middle Eastern area. In the opinion of the Foreign Office, the French actions were wholly indefensible. The Foreign Office therefore urged compliance forthwith with the demand that M. Helleu be removed and the Lebanese politicians released. Mr. Macmillan was instructed to say that unless immediate satisfaction was received on these points, the [Page 1030] British Government would take a line which could only be displeasing to the French.

Subsequently on November 12 further instructions were sent to Mr. Casey and Mr. Macmillan, pointing out that the British Cabinet had endorsed the above-mentioned demands and desired Mr. Macmillan to make clear to the French Committee of Liberation that future British relations with that Committee depended upon the readiness of the French to grant satisfaction on these demands.

  1. W. G. Hayter, First Secretary of the British Embassy.