711.56373/5–950: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Consulate in Tripoli
top secret

57. Question of US retaining right to use Wheelus Field and related mil facilities after Libya becomes independent may be discussed by US–UK FonMins during current mtgs London.1 Summary of position paper for Secy on this subj prepared in light comments by Joint Chiefs Staff fols:

“The Brit Embassy informed Dept Apr 19 that Mr. Bevin is considering whether to discuss with Mr. Acheson question possible payment by US Govt to future state of Libya in respect facilities in Tripolitania used by US mil forces. This question of financial assistance for Libya was discussed informally with officers in Office of Secy of Defense and Air Force concerned with problem. The policy agreed to by Secy of State and Secy of Defense with regard to countries in NAT area is that US base rights in those countries shld not be negotiated on a quid pro quo basis in return for econ assistance from the US. Since US mutual defense treaty with Libya is unlikely situation is different from that in NAT area, but it wld probably be advisable to attempt to follow similar procedure in any negots this govt might have with Libyan Govt in regard to Wheelus Air Base and related facilities in Tripolitania.

“If Mr. Bevin raises this question, it is recommended that we:

  • “1. Agree with him on the desirability of the future Libyan state receiving some financial assistance to assist in its estab and functioning.
  • “2. Express view that US and UK will undoubtedly be asked by Libyan Govt to provide financial assistance in return for use of mil facilities needed for our strategic requirements in eastern Medit.
  • “3. Assure him that US officials wld be glad to discuss with Brit officials how such financial assistance might be provided for Libya.
  • “4. Point out that US Govt does not desire to link US base rights in Libya directly with financial aid to Libya and therefore it wld not offer initially to negotiate for base rights with future state of Libya on a quid pro quo basis in return for US econ assistance. Therefore, US officials in talks with Brit officials, and eventually in any negots with Libyan Govt will make a distinction between arrangements for mil facilities and the supplying of financial assistance to Libya. However, every possible means shld be taken to obtain essential base rights as soon as possible and definitely prior to 1 January 1952.”

[Page 1624]

Chief reasons for stand taken by Defense Dept and JCS as reflected in above are that:

Providing financial assistance directly for use Wheelus Field (such as paying exorbitant rent) wld set dangerous precedent which might affect US base rights in many other parts of world; and
US may want to retain use of such bases over much longer period than we might grant econ assistance to country where it is located (they cite as example US bomber bases in England which we will presumably want to use on long-term basis whereas ECA aid to UK will cease in 1952).

Therefore US will have to try to maintain distinction between obtaining base rights in Libya and providing assistance to that country although there is full agreement in US Govt depts concerned that some form of econ assistance in fairly substantial amounts will probably have to be made available to Libya, particularly in next few years. You and Clark shld bear this in mind in discussing matter discreetly with Pelt since, if Dept understands his thinking correctly, he is willing go along with US and UK in obtaining strategic rights in Libya only in return for financial assistance on strict quid pro quo basis. You shld try to disabuse him of this idea, or at least to modify it. At same time you shld reassure him that US Govt fully recognizes need of Libya for financial aid and will do what it can to help provide some assistance.

For purposes proposed discussions with UK and US Govt planning, Dept requests summary report on current economic situation and prospects for Libya, especially Tripolitania, with estimate amount assistance US might reasonably be expected to supply.

  1. For documentation on the meetings of the Foreign Ministers of France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, May 11–13, at London, including materials on Libya, see vol. iii, pp. 828 ff.