Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Satterthwaite) to the Secretary of State

top secret


On March 10, 1949, Mr. Rusk conveyed orally to Mr. Meade, Counselor of the British Embassy, tentative proposals, approved by the Secretary, for the disposition of Libya. The preferred solution was a five-power trusteeship for all Libya, with the British acting in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania as administering agent and the French so acting in the Fezzan. It was suggested that the US might be willing to assume some of the expense of administration of the proposed British area. An alternate solution consisted of the same arrangement for Tripolitania and the Fezzan, while the UK would become trustee of Cyrenaica. These suggestions in no way modified the US commitment to support UK trusteeship over Cyrenaica (Tab A1).

On March 17, 1949, Mr. Meade called on Mr. Rusk and read two first-person telegrams from Mr. Bevin. These telegrams objected strongly to any kind of multiple trusteeship on grounds of possible [Page 537]Slav participation, unworkability, possible disputes among co-trustees, and political undesirability.

The telegrams expressed the opinion that the impending signature of the Atlantic Pact might make a material change in the views of the various nations toward the Italian Colonies; and requested that further consideration of Tripolitania be deferred until Mr. Bevin, who expects to reach Washington on April 1, 1949, can discuss the matter personally with the Secretary. It was indicated that the British would expect outright British trusteeship over Cyrenaica (Tab B2).

Mr. Rusk responded that there will not be sufficient time between April 1 and April 4 to arrive at a solution of the problem of the Italian Colonies; that consideration might have to be given to the plan of independence for Libya, and that the time now remaining is barely sufficient to consult with the other branches of the American Government and to prepare for a solution involving multiple trusteeship. It would be more difficult, continued Mr. Rusk, to prepare for a proposal involving US trusteeship over Tripolitania. It was further pointed out by Mr. Rusk that Mr. Acheson will be extremely busy between the time when the Atlantic Pact is signed and the opening of the General Assembly session on April 5th. The final briefing of the US Delegation to the General Assembly will doubtless take place on April 2.

On March 18, 1949, Mr. Meade again called on Mr. Rusk and read a telegram which had just been received from the Foreign Office in response to his report on the conversation with Mr. Rusk on March 17. The message stated that Mr. Bevin considers the best and indeed the only practical solution for Tripolitania is US trusteeship. In his previous communication, he did not ask the Embassy to press this view because there was little apparent chance that the US would accept this solution prior to the convening of the GA. Mr. Bevin had thought that perhaps a more favorable atmosphere would prevail after the signing of the Atlantic Pact. These considerations had led him to the conclusion that further postponement is the best policy for the moment. (Tab C3).


In view of the foregoing, it is recommended that Mr. Rusk be authorized to convey an oral message from you to Mr. Bevin embodying the following points: (1) You appreciate the prompt attention which Mr. Bevin has given our suggestions regarding the disposition of the former Italian Colonies; (2) You regret that Mr. Bevin, for reasons [Page 538]which we can appreciate, has not found our suggestions acceptable; (3) We still attach the greatest importance to coordinating the British and American positions before the opening of the General Assembly; and (4) In the short time remaining, you feel that our two government should continue at the staff level to make every effort to evolve a mutually satisfactory solution.

It is further recommended that Mr. Rusk be authorized to deliver the attached Aide-Mémoire (Tab D4) to Mr. Meade to summarize the conversation indicated above.

  1. Ante, p. 532.
  2. Tab B, not printed, was a copy of the memorandum of the conversation of March 17.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Infra.