855.646/5–1846: Telegram

The Ambassador in Belgium (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

top secret
us urgent

594. Prime Minister called meeting this morning British Ambassador, Spaak, Minister of Colonies Godding and myself on subject Government’s reply to Libois73 interpellation (my 582, May 15, 8 a.m., and 586, May 16, 7 p.m.).74 Van Acker states reply must be given Wednesday 22 May at 2 p.m., local time. Van Acker calm and un-flurried and proposes simple and natural treatment of topic. He believes it definitely preferable to take this action now rather than to permit pressure to grow by continuing to refuse statement. Question and reply may provoke some discussion but combination Van Acker and Spaak will keep situation well in hand in my opinion.

Libois question follows “I wish to have precise information on the intervention of the Government (during the war and at present) in questions relative to the uranium deposits of the Congo. I must insist on the importance of the question of atomic energy, on its immediate interest, and on the responsibilities of the Belgian authorities both to the nation and before world opinion.”

The Government intends to reply in a general manner and if in the course of the debate questions of a really definite nature are put concerning the destination of the Congo uranium during the war and whether an agreement on this subject existed, they will reply:

That the regime applied to uranium during the war was similar [Page 1248] to that for all other raw materials of strategic importance such as copper, cobalt, rubber, et cetera.
That it was with the knowledge of the Government that the Union Miniere sold uranium to the UK and USA in the same way as other raw materials and the contract had a certain duration. (If pressed as to the period of the contract they will say this is a matter which will depend on the action of the Atomic Commission of UNO).
That the commercial contract made on this occasion had the approval of the Government because they knew that if Belgium had need of a certain quantity of raw material for her own research requirements it [would] be made available.
The Government has in mind legislation for controlling the use of uranium but that such legislation can only be effective when the Atomic Commission of the UNO has announced its conclusions.

The above reply was formulated with full agreement all five of us and Van Acker perfectly agreeable both British Ambassador and I transmit it to our Governments. Also quite willing you should make any statements in conformity this position which you may deem advisable. I will of course give you prompt notice of course of debate in Senate here and would appreciate notice of any action you may intend to take.75

My own view is that some discussion by press is to be expected with Communist elements possibly critical. Of interest however, is fact that one Socialist Senator has filed formal question in general similar to Libois indicating increasing curiosity.

  1. A Communist Senator.
  2. Neither printed.
  3. Mr. Kirk reported in telegram 622, May 22, that the Senate interpellation of that afternoon was quiet and that agreements between Belgium, the United States, and the United Kingdom had not been questioned. He stated that the statement by the Belgian Government had apparently at least temporarily relieved the pressure for information on the subject. (855.646/5–2246)