Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Rusk) to the Secretary of State

top secret

In view of the probability of voting in the General Assembly tomorrow on all Italian Colonies resolutions,1 it is necessary to clear with the President our approval of two alternatives which may open up the way for the necessary two-thirds vote.

A. Bevin-Sforza Agreement 2

Subject to approval by the Italian Government, Sforza–Bevin have agreed as follows:

Immediate British trusteeship for Cyrenaica—in accord with present U.S. position.
Immediate French trusteeship for the Fezzan—in accord with present U.S. position.
Cession of all of Eritrea except the Western Province to Ethiopia with special guarantees for the Italian cities of Asmara and Massawa—in accord with present U.S. position.
Incorporation of Western Province of Eritrea into the Sudan—in accord with existing U.S. position.
Italian trusteeship for Italian Somaliland—in accord with existing U.S. position.
Continuation of British administration in Tripolitania until end of 1951, followed by an Italian trusteeship for Tripolitania. During period of British administration, establishment of an advisory council composed of the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Italy, Egypt or another Arab State, and a representative of the people of the territory.

It is recommended that the United States Delegation be authorized to support this proposal for Tripolitania provided (a) the principle of independence for Libya as a whole at the end of ten years is retained and (b) the trusteeship agreement between Italy and the General Assembly would be considered at the 1951 session of the General Assembly. This latter proviso would place a premium upon a conciliatory attitude by the Italians toward the Arabs, would give the Assembly a chance to review the situation if Arab hostility in Tripolitania made an Italian-Arab war likely, and would give all of us a chance to look at the domestic political situation in Italy before taking a final step to place Italy in Tripolitania.

Although the above proposal for Tripolitania is not ideal, there is no alternative proposal which as yet appears to have necessary support for passage by the Assembly.

B. Uruguayan Amendment to Present British Resolution

The Uruguayan Delegation has suggested informally that a multiple trusteeship for Tripolitania consisting of the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Egypt be substituted for the present clause in the United Kingdom resolution which would establish a committee of five (Egypt, France, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States) to study the matter and report back to the next meeting of the General Assembly in September. The Uruguayan proposal may or may not have a clause which might permit the four to add others to the multiple trusteeship.

[Page 554] It is recommended that the President authorize the Department of State to concur in the Uruguayan proposal if it should appear to furnish a basis for the necessary two-third majority in the Assembly.

C. Summary

If the President approves the above recommendations, the United States Delegation would then be instructed that our position, in order of preference, is:

The United Kingdom resolution as it now stands (Tab A).
Either the Bevin-Sforza formula or the Uruguayan amendment, depending upon the prospect of parliamentary support; and
Some form of postponement which would not have final decisions taken at this session of the Assembly.3

  1. Voting in the General Assembly on all the Italian colonies resolutions actually began on May 17, 1949. After two days during which every resolution put before it had been defeated, the General Assembly on May 18 adopted without opposition a Polish proposal for postponement of further consideration of the problem until the next session. (GA (III/2), Plenary, pp. 599 ff.)
  2. The Bevin-Sforza formula for the disposition of the Italian colonies was an arrangement worked out between Ernest Bevin and Count Carlo Sforza during talks in London in the early days of May 1949. These negotiations were conducted with a view to reconciling the United Kingdom and the Italian views. The result was the compromise formula which came to be known as the Bevin-Sforza agreement. These suggestions, which were circulated in the small subcommittee of the First Committee on May 10, 1949 evoked strong criticism from several members on the grounds that they represented a “territorial deal” which had been arrived at outside of United Nations channels.
  3. The Secretary of State recorded in a memorandum of May 9, not printed, that the President had approved the course of action proposed in Rusk’s memorandum (Secretary’s Memoranda, Lot 53D444, May 1949).