Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( McGhee ) to the Secretary of State 1


Subject: Summary of the Tangier Conference.

The Northern African Diplomatic and Consular Conference which was held in Tangier, Morocco, October 2–7, 1950, under my direction, was attended by officials of our missions in Tangier, Paris, and Cairo, [Page 1574] and by our consular officers from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Eritrea, and French West Africa, as well as by representatives of ECA, the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Labor and Agriculture. The meeting concerned itself with problems confronting the United States in its political, economic, military, cultural, labor, and consular relations with the countries in Northern Africa coming within the scope of the Conference area. On October 5 we were honored by a visit from Admiral Richard L. Conolly, Commander in Chief of United States Naval Forces in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean.2

The principal observations of the conferees are summarised below3:


1. Local Attitudes toward the United States and its Foreign Policy.

There continues to be a reservoir of goodwill and respect toward the United States throughout Northern Africa among all elements of the population, Arab and French. There is disagreement, however, with specific points of U.S. policy, which naturally varies among the different elements of the population. There is impatience among the Arabs with our apparent reluctance to give concrete recognition to Nationalist aspirations, and our apparent willingness to side with France in order to buy temporary security against the Russian menace. Our prestige is probably higher in Libya than in any other part of the area, because of U.S. support of Libyan independence.

There is uniform opposition to Soviet expansionism throughout the area, and an admiration for the vigor with which we have countered this threat in Korea and elsewhere. While the Arab Nationalist leaders have occasionally flirted with the Communists, they have done so not because of admiration for Communist tenets or as a reflection of ultimate solidarity with the Communists, but opportunistically to achieve their own aspirations.

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The French see in our encouragement of Libyan independence a vital threat to their hold on Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. North African Nationalists, on the other hand, view our Libyan stand as one of our few real contributions since the war to Arab aspirations in that area. Our Eritrean policy does not conjure up much interest pro or con in the rest of the Northern Africa area.

The Atlantic Pact, ECA and MAP are welcomed by the French colonials and officials. The Arab Nationalists, however, regard the ECA programs as a means of strengthening the French position in North Africa. Little is known about the Pact and MAP in the remainder of the area.

Articulate opinion in the area generally supports the UN’s collective security concepts, but there is a sharp divergence of opinion on the UN’s attitude toward dependent territories. The French are extremely sensitive to demands in the UN for further advances in dependent areas and to criticisms of their administration of dependent areas. They would resist any effort to have any aspect of the North African situation discussed in the UN. Arab Nationalist leaders on the other hand look to the UN as their hope for bringing their aspirations to world attention.

2. Appraisal of the Political Situation in French and Spanish North Africa.

There has been little change in the attitude of the French and Spanish authorities in Morocco since 1946. They both tend to look upon these territories as properties from which they intend to take full advantage. The two Zones are rigidly ruled by military regimes. Similarly, the French Government has not altered appreciably its policy with respect to Algeria. The Spanish are not willing to relinquish their claim to an area larger than the one they now control in Morocco, and consider Tangier to be legitimately Spanish. Largely because of Spanish objections, it appears unlikely that a definitive regime can be established in Tangier for some time to come.

Arab Nationalists could not at present threaten French control of North Africa by force, but agitation may develop unless steps are taken in all three areas under French administration to satisfy to a greater degree the Nationalist aspirations. To date, however, the French have shown little willingness to put into effect any reforms unless forced to do so. French Governing authorities are concerned over possible Arab League action with regard to North Africa.

The situation in Tunisia differs from Morocco and Algeria because France seems to have a more flexible attitude toward native aspirations, and the Tunisian Nationalists seem more willing to compromise. There is hope for substantial improvement in the Tunisian political [Page 1576] situation, but implementation of the present reform program must proceed apace if continued Nationalist cooperation is to be expected. At present the main obstacle to the Tunisian reform program is the opposition of the French Colons.

Our middle-of-the-road policy between the French and Arab populations in Morocco and Algeria has endeared us to neither. U.S. intentions are suspect, partly because of public statements by U.S. officials regarding the advancement of dependent peoples. Our North Africa policy must take into account our interest in the progressive development of dependent peoples as well as our interest in maintaining France as a strong nation. However, it would be difficult for us to undertake to exercise a restraining influence on the North African Arabs and the Arab League unless France shows good faith in carrying out reform programs.

Nationalism in Morocco and Algeria is considered by the French a greater danger than Communism. While Nationalists apparently avoid open collaboration with the Communists, continuation of repressive policies might drive them into the arms of the Communists. We have derived little benefit from our policy of non-recognition of the Spanish Zone of Morocco.

The Conference made the following recommendations: (1) It is essential that stability be maintained in North Africa. Therefore, we should continue to support and strengthen France while endeavoring to persuade France to initiate and implement political reform programs. (2) We should avoid encouraging Nationalist demands for immediate independence. We should directly reassure France that we have no desire to see her weakened; that we recognize her predominant interest in North Africa; and that we look to French maintenance of political stability. (3) We should also endeavor to persuade France to realize that Nationalist forces at work in the world today make it essential that the political evolution of the North African people be progressively forward. (4) If it should appear that the French are not carrying out the Tunisian reform program in good faith, we should forcefully present to them our belief that this will have serious consequences. (5) We should endeavor to convince France that it should not continue to abet the lowering of U.S. prestige in North Africa. (6) We should determine what policy the U.S. should follow if the North African problem is raised in the UN. (7) We should endeavor to persuade the Franco regime to introduce more reforms in the Spanish Zone of Morocco. (8) We should reconsider our policy of non-recognition of the Spanish Zone. (9) Consideration should be given to amending the present Tangier regime by unanimous action of the Committee of Control. (10) The Departments of State [Page 1577] and Defense should consider what position the U.S. should take on the question of defense of the International Zone of Tangier.

3. The Former Italian Colonies.

Regarding Libya the Conference recommended that: (1) We should seek definite clarification of UK policy towards Libya as a whole. (2) We should encourage the U.K. and France to coordinate their activities more closely in bringing about an independent Libya. (3) We should bring our influence to bear in the fulfillment of the UN resolution on Libya. (4) We should consult with the U.K. and others to determine how financial assistance should be furnished to Libya. (5) We should support Italy’s desire to reestablish economic and commercial relations with Libya, but oppose any attempts to restore Italian political domination. (6) We should canvass possibilities of using ECA counterpart funds in Libya, and should urge the Point IV Administrator to view with leniency any requests in respect of Libya, reducing to the minimum the demand for local funds.

Regarding Eritrea, we should press for a solution during the present General Assembly, and should press Italy to accept a compromise federation formula which would be acceptable to Ethiopia.

Regarding Somaliland, we should associate ourselves with all UN efforts to ensure that the unsettled Ethiopian-Somaliland border does not become a cause of hostilities.4

4. Communist Aims and Activities.

The native populations in all of the Northern African areas are susceptible in varying degrees to Communism. Europeans have been largely responsible for introducing Communism in French North Africa, and are the active leaders in the movement there. Although by no means widespread Communism is fairly well entrenched in North Africa, active in French West Africa, but not as yet in the former Italian Colonies. The greatest immediate threats to security in these areas, more particularly in French North Africa, lie in the covert and overt powers of Communist elements now active there. While Communists are not openly aggressive in North and West Africa, probably because there is no advantage to be derived in light of inability to seize power, indications are that they are, nevertheless, actively organizing for the future, and would attempt to take advantage of any crisis to embarrass the French and their allies. Islam is not by any means an insurmountable barrier to Communism.

The Conference recommended that where necessary local authorities should be urged to take more positive measures to counteract Communism; [Page 1578] and more information on Communist activities in these areas should be obtained.

5. United Nations Activities Affecting North Africa.

The Conference concluded that: (1) the many activities of the UN had already demonstrated the importance of its role in Northern Africa; (2) UN specialized agencies should extend their services to the area; (3) should the French North Africa question be raised in the UN, it would be difficult for us to oppose its consideration; (4) UN decisions providing for Libyan independence on January 1, 1952 and Somaliland in ten years were considered premature.

The Conference recommended that: (1) we should continue to emphasize U.N. activities in North Africa in USIE programs; (2) we should consider increasing efforts inside and outside the UN to assist Libya economically; (3) we should renew our efforts to warn France of the difficulties which would arise if the North African question were placed before the UN.


1. Point IV.

The Point IV program may have long-run significance in French dependencies in Africa, but its immediate impact will probably be slight because of the small amount allocated to this huge area ($100,000); because of French suspicion toward the aims of the program and the substantial ECA aid now being received. On the other hand, Point IV will no doubt have immediate significance in Libya, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

It was recommended that: (1) in North Africa priority be given to US and UN technical assistance programs in Libya; (2) we should avoid the appearance of thrusting Point IV on any country, and particularly upon French Africa where considerable suspicion of the program exists; (3) in French territories the U.S. should follow a selective policy of approving projects which would be of primary benefit to the indigenous inhabitants of the area; (4) priority should be given to Point IV assistance to American schools in the area since they are the most effective and least costly way of reaching local people; and (5) high priority should be given to public health, aid for agricultural experimental farms, for the development of extension agricultural education and for the sending of native trainees to the United States.

2. E.C.A.

ECA aid has made an important contribution to the economic progress of French North Africa during the past two years. Economic development programs for the area financed partly by ECA appear [Page 1579] to have been well designed and administered. While ECA aid has been welcomed by the French and has aided in the economic recovery of North Africa, Nationalist leaders have resented it and claim that such aid has been carefully channeled by the Metropole to French interests and in the name of France rather than from the United States; that the indigenous inhabitants have received little direct benefit; and that such aid, made in the form of interest bearing loans from France to North Africa rather than grants, has been used as a means of further consolidating the French position in the area.

The Conference recommended that: (1) ECA aid to the French areas in Africa be continued as presently authorized with increasing emphasis upon specific projects of basic economic or strategic importance rather than the financing of general import requirements from dollar areas; (2) more intensive efforts be made through USIE and other available channels to widen local understanding among both Arabs and Europeans of the purposes and benefits of ECA assistance; (3) subject to general policy considerations, ECA explore with France the possibility of (a) clearly identifying the component of counterpart funds in public investment in French Africa, and (b) having counterpart advances made to territorial governments on a grant basis.

3. Private Investments in North Africa.

The great need for capital for the economic development of North Africa was recognized, but the consensus of opinion was that it was unlikely that any significant amounts of US private investment would be attracted to the area until more basic economic development had taken place in the fields of transportation, communications, agriculture and electric power. In French North and West Africa other factors, such as the generally unfavorable attitude of France toward foreign investments, existing patterns of trade in those territories and monopolistic and other artificial arrangements which restrict the field within which US investors may operate also hamper investment opportunities for private US investors. In Libya, Eritrea and in Tangier, there are, at the present time, fewer restrictions on US investment capital but there are by the same token fewer investment opportunities.

4. Trade Discrimination in North Africa Against US Exports.

Rigorous controls against US trade exist in Northern Africa, and the import and exchange controls in these dependent territories appear to be more rigorously applied against US trade than in the Metropole. The improvement in the reserve positions of France and the UK might warrant a review of US acquiescence in the discriminatory controls of North African and other dependent areas.

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The Conference recommended that the Department and ECA examine, as conditions permit, the possibilities of progressive relaxation of import and exchange controls in the countries in the Conference areas; and also consider whether it would be desirable to urge France and the UK to refrain from the more rigid application of import and exchange control systems in their dependencies and protectorates than in the metropolitan area.


Considerable time was devoted at the Conference to reviewing and analyzing the effectiveness of our present U.S.I.E. program in the area; and in studying ways and means by which the program could be improved and expanded in order that U.S.I.E. could more effectively promote US foreign policy objectives in North Africa.

An appraisal of U.S.I.E. programs in the area indicated that V.O.A. and local radio programs were particularly effective; news and press programs are receiving fairly good distribution; educational and exchange programs are, with the exception of Libya, hampered by the lack of cooperation from administering authorities, economic restrictions and low educational levels; libraries are expanding and are widely used; and motion picture programs, while somewhat limited at present, are expected to be expanded.

The Conference was of the opinion that U.S.I.E. activities in the area should be concentrated on the following target groups listed in the order of their importance: (1) local government officials; (2) political, Nationalist and labor leaders; (3) students, technicians, teachers and other professionals; (4) the literate portion of the general-public; and (5) the semi-literate and illiterate masses.

Specific recommendations were made by the Conference on the policy to be followed by U.S.I.E. in North Africa, and on media to be used in effectively presenting the US point of view. Details of these recommendations are included in the Conference Report.

Four sessions of four hours each were also devoted to a discussion of: (1) additional economic problems (other than those mentioned); (2) labor problems in North Africa; (3) administration; and (4) consular activities. As in the case of other items on the Conference agenda, definite conclusions and recommendations were reached for inclusion in the detailed report of the Conference which will soon be available for distribution.

  1. This memorandum was drafted by Director of the Office of African Affairs Bourgerie and Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs Kopper. The source text is initialled by Secretary of State Acheson.
  2. The Northern African Diplomatic and Consular Conference at Tangier, October 2–7, was one of 12 U.S. regional diplomatic and consular conferences held throughout the world during 1950. The West and East African Regional Conference had been held earlier at Lourenço Marques, February 27–March 2; see Assistant Secretary of State McGhee’s memorandum to the Secretary of State, April 12, p. 1514. Sixty officials attended the Tangier Conference. The names of the 26-member delegation of officials from Washington were included in a statement issued to the press by the Department of State on September 6 announcing the convening of the Conference (Department of State Bulletin, September 25, 1950, pp. 515–516). For an authoritative article describing the procedures involved in convening the 12 regional diplomatic and consular conferences of 1950 and including a photograph of the participants in the Tangier Conference, see The American Foreign Service Journal, January 1951, pp. 13–15. The 105-page formal report on the Tangier Conference, not printed, is included in file 120.270/10–750. For an additional account of the proceedings and results of the Tangier Conference, see also the Summary of Remarks by Assistant Secretary of State McGhee, October 25, p. 1569.
  3. The summary that follows here is identical with pages 1 through 8 of the formal report on the Tangier Conference identified in footnote 2 above.
  4. For additional documentation on the position of the United States regarding the disposition of the former Italian colonies in Africa, see pp. 1600 ff.