711.56373/5–1950: Telegram

The Consul General at Tripoli (Lynch) to the Acting Secretary of State 1
top secret

127. In conformity with suggestion contained in Department’s top secret 57, May 9, I discussed matter of base rights during generalized conversation with Pelt yesterday. As result this conversation, think it possible there is misunderstanding of Pelt’s position in Department and possibly on part Mr. Bevin (Depcirtel May 16, 2 p. m.2). I asked [Page 1625] Pelt outline his general ideas as to how base rights might best be obtained. He suggested that upon establishment provisional government Libya, which he hoped to see set up by first month 1951, governments US–UK–France open separate negotiations with such provisional government for three draft treaties which would come into effect upon date of absolute independence. I then told Pelt that I believed there should be no connection between any economic aid or technical assistance US might extend to independent Libya and money we might be expected pay for base rights. Pelt replied that he heartily agreed with these views and stated categorically that he had never believed that payment for base rights should in any way be confused with general economic assistance to a new country.

Pelt advanced view, however, that there should be some control over way money for base rights was spent. He felt that each of three proposed treaties should contain common or, at least, similar clause specifying that money for base rights should be used for education, public health, agriculture, et cetera, and that a neutral (UN) adviser be appointed who, while not exercising direct control, would, nevertheless, influence the Libyan Government to see that it was spent in proper manner. Pelt said that if this were done, it would assist him immeasurably when he had to defend the situation when challenged by Soviet or satellite delegates in GA. I said I had some doubts about this proposal, but that it was obviously worthy of serious study. Pelt emphasized strongly throughout conversation that any money aid for base rights should go to central Libyan Government and not to administration of any one of three territories.

I hope I am correct in assuming that telegram under reference does not intend to convey that American policy vis-à-vis base rights in Tripolitania is to obtain them without financial remuneration on the basis of the long term benefits they will bring to territory. I am in complete accord with principle of keeping question of right to use Wheelus Field and other facilities, which must necessarily accompany it, entirely apart from general economic, technical or financial aid to the country. To link those problems together would, I fear, lay us open to perpetual blackmail on part any new state, which may evolve, and introduce source of constant friction, particularly on occasions when circumstances forced fluctuations in our direct financial aid. Nevertheless, it has always been my understanding that US Government was prepared to pay annual sum for base rights. I believe that this would be most satisfactory method of getting what we want.

In conversations with ranking Air Force and MATS officers, including General Spry and Colonel Easley, commanding officer Wheelus Field, as well as with Army Chief of Staff, General Collins, I have received impression that they concur. This proposed payment [Page 1626] is not to be confused with rent now paid by British administration for land they have requisitioned from individual landowners and for which we reimburse British. It would, in my opinion, be desirable for new independent government of Libya to acquire the necessary land, and itself recompense landowners, thus eliminating that particular aspect of problem. I trust payment of annual sum as recommended in an amount to be determined would not be considered in any way to “set dangerous precedent which might affect US base rights in many other parts of the world.”3

Department pass London 32.

  1. Secretary Acheson was still in London attending the fourth session of the NATO Council; for documentation on this session, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  2. Not printed; it reported, inter alia, that the British had already assured Pelt of their intention to make a financial contribution to Libya, since Pelt intended to make his cooperation in obtaining strategic facilities contingent on economic aid (700.00(S)/5–1650).
  3. In telegram 131, from Tripoli, May 22, not printed, Clark reported that Pelt had told him much the same thing that he had told Lynch regarding Wheelus Field. Clark also indicated that he had discussed Wheelus Field with various Tripolitanian leaders who expressed not only a willingness but also the hope that the United States would retain the field. (357.AG/5–2250) In a subsequent conversation with the Emir on June 12, Clark mentioned the U.S. desire to remain at Wheelus Field. The Emir replied “without qualification” that he would “support and approve” any agreement negotiated with a provisional Libyan Government and approved by an independent Libyan Government which allowed the United States to remain at the field. Telegram 142, from Tripoli, June 12, not printed (357.AG/6–1250).