865.014/7–3148: Telegram

The Charge in Italy (Byington) to the Secretary of State

top secret

3242. For the Secretary and Under Secretary. Prime Minister today sent word to me of his concern over question of former Italian Colonies (Embtel 2798, June 28). He requested that I transmit following views as coming directly from him for your consideration.

It is of greatest importance to Italy that there should be a partial settlement in her favor now involving at least a portion of former colonies. If Four Power agreement not reached on balance decision as to other areas would of course have to be deferred (see my 3241, July 31).1
Prime Minister wished to make it clear that he felt our interests regarding defense in Mediterranean converged with those of Italy and that he was sure any question of bases could be satisfactorily worked out. He wanted it clearly understood that he was fully disposed to give utmost consideration to US defensive requirements on areas involved.
If question of Communist infiltration into former Italian Colonies should they be entrusted to Italy were a factor De Gasperi felt he could safely dispel any such fear. Italian Communist strength was in large industrial centers and peasants and artisans who would be sent to colonies by Italy would not be drawn from Communist centers in Italy. Italian Government in any event would be able to control that problem.
Finally Prime Minister wished to emphasize great weight which solution problem former Italian Colonies bears on internal situation in Italy. Unfavorable attitude by US in face of Soviet position favorable to Italy would be a formidable weapon in hands of Italian Communists. General rehearsal of Communist strength and organization which took place over Togliatti shooting2 was an indication of what they could do should they determine on violence. Government had met test successfully and would in his opinion be able to meet test again when it should next come up. Government would be severely handicapped, however, if Communists were able to pose as national champions during severe repercussions which would follow an unfavorable decision for Italy on colonial question.

Prime Minister’s message which was delivered orally concluded with an expression that De Gasperi’s anxiety in this matter was so great that he felt it urgent that these views should be transmitted to you without waiting for Ambassador Dunn’s return.

  1. Not printed.
  2. On July 14, Antonio Pollante, a student, attempted to assassinate Palmiro Togliatti outside the Chamber of Deputies in Rome.