774.56/9–1350: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Holmes) to the Secretary of State

top secret

1584. According Edmonds,1 African Department Foreign Office, British Ambassador Cairo2 informed Egyptian acting Minister Foreign Affairs Monday that in light present international situation UK Government had been obliged review priority given arms shipments (Embtels 1163 August 24, 795 August 8)3 and to give first consideration to needs of countries with which UK had “working defense agreements”. (Comment: This means primarily NATO and Commonwealth; it does not mean Egypt.) As consequence, UK would have cancel delivery on remaining 65 jet fighters which Egyptians had ordered and might have do same for 16 Centurion tanks already ordered and for radar equipment. However, in view fact Egyptians have already paid for tanks ordered it might be possible make delivery by end of year.

Acting Foreign Minister asked that nothing be said publicly about UK decision in view embarrassing interrogations this bound raise in Egyptian Parliament. Accordingly, UK ministers have been carefully [Page 296] briefed avoid any reference in Commons. However, story leaked in press today through error Foreign Office NE Department which discussed decision with Daily Telegraph diplomatic correspondent. Telegraph presented report of UK decision as coming from “unnamed Egyptian Cabinet Minister” in Cairo who is cited as saying that Britain has decided to reimpose ban on arms deliveries.

Edmonds said decision would definitely eliminate prospects any more jets going to Egypt and he thought it was doubtful, in view needs Korea, whether UK would be able ship any tanks, with possible exception 16 Centurions. As for radar of type used for intercepting aircraft, he thought at best there would be none available for Egypt for at least 18 months. It might be possible, however, send type used as directional aid for firing ground weapons.

While criterion giving first preference on British availabilities to NATO and Commonwealth countries will apply to all types arms, he thought foregoing three items would be principal ones of which Egypt and rest of NE would be deprived.

Edmonds said 65 jet fighters whose delivery now cancelled had been contracted but not yet paid for.4

Sent Department 1584, repeated Cairo 27.

  1. R. H. G. Edmonds.
  2. Sir Ralph G. Stevenson.
  3. Neither printed.
  4. As British Assistant Under-Secretary of State Wright subsequently revealed to Ambassador Douglas in London on October 5, this decision by the British Foreign Office was made for several reasons. First, increasing world tension and demands from allies forced the British to review their priorities. Second, Egypt’s uncooperative attitude on defense matters led to the Foreign Office’s conclusion that the suspension of arms might have a beneficial effect by making the Egyptian government realize that its uncooperative attitude carried its penalties. (Telegram 2013 from London, October 5; 774.56/10–550)