Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of African Affairs (Bourgerie)1

Subject: Development of Libya

Participants: The Mufti of Tripolitania, Sheikh Mohammed Abul As’Ad Al Alem
Mr. George C. McGhee—NEA
Mr. E. H. Bourgerie—AF

Mr. McGhee asked the Mufti to express his view as to how the United States Government could help Libya. The Mufti said that Libya is a very poor but vast territory which is fit for pastures and agriculture and that its soil might contain mineral resources. He said that it would be useful to have American experts come to Libya and carry out surveys and studies on the spot so that the wealth of the country could be better developed. Mr. McGhee pointed out that President Truman’s Point IV Program has that very objective, and that the program includes Libya. The Mufti stressed that Libya relies upon the United States which has been showing some attention towards his country. He added that Mr. McGhee’s visit to Libya Was proof of the concern of the United States towards the country.

Mr. McGhee asked the Mufti in what other fields the United States might help Libya. In reply, the Mufti mentioned in particular the [Page 1630] educational field and said that the American Government could send teachers and open schools as had been done in the Near East (Beirut, Egypt, etc.). He observed that the United States, which once adopted the policy of isolation, is now concerned in helping the free nations to surmount their economic crises. In this connection the Mufti also said that both the Chief Administrator and Mr. Scott, Director of Education, have good intentions to improve educational conditions in the territory but that they lack sufficient funds, considering the small budget of the country. Mr. McGhee reassured the Mufti that the Point IV Program would help to provide assistance in the educational field.

Mr. McGhee then asked if the Mufti was satisfied with the progress made in the political field since the UN resolution regarding the independence of Libya had been passed. The Mufti replied that he was satisfied but expressed his fear about the obstacles raised by foreign powers having territorial objectives in the country. Mr. McGhee asked him to name these powers and the Mufti specified France and Italy. He said that Great Britain and the United States had no territorial aims. Mr. McGhee agreed and said his Government’s desire is to see the establishment of a unified Libyan State.

The Mufti praised Mr. Clark for his work on the UN Council for Libya. He said that he was surprised that the Fezzan, which is a region of only 40,000 inhabitants, can be considered equal to Tripolitania with 750,000 people, and Cyrenaica with 250,000. Mr. McGhee pointed out that the United States is a federal government with some states having small populations, but that they are all represented by an equal number of Senators in the American Congress. The Mufti said that the Tripolitanians had no direct contacts with the people of the Fezzan, although contacts are necessary for them to exchange ideas and to live together in harmony when Libya becomes independent. The Mufti said that it is easier to cross the Iron Curtain and to penetrate into Russia than to enter the Fezzan. He then declared that Communism had been forced to retreat and that its policy of world domination had been defeated by the United States which, by assisting and supporting the countries of Europe and elsewhere to overcome their postwar crises, had kept Communism and its destructive ideology away from them. Mr. McGhee said that he was glad to hear all this from the Mufti and emphasized that the United States is sparing no effort to save the free countries of the world from the Communist plague. Mr. McGhee said that the American Government would do its best to remove the obstacles mentioned by the Mufti through the UN. He emphasized that his Government wants to be a friend of the Libyan people and wants to cooperate with them.

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Referring to Wheelus Field, Mr. McGhee said that the American Government is keeping it not with the aim of interfering in the affairs of the country, but that it is spending money on the Field which constitutes an asset for the country itself. The Mufti agreed and said that the Libyans consider themselves lucky that the Americans are maintaining Mellaha Air Base because the enemies of Libya would never dare to attack the country for fear of their American friends.

Mr. McGhee then told the Mufti that he and all the other leaders have a great responsibility placed on them in order to obtain skillful civil servants ready to manage the affairs of their country. The Mufti paid a high tribute to the kindness and spirit of cooperation and assistance of Mr. Lynch and Colonel Easley. The Mufti expressed an earnest desire to see four or five Tripolitanian boys, who could be selected from the neighborhood of the air field or from the sons of local workers employed by Wheelus Field, studying with American children at the base. The Mufti stressed that if the idea could become a reality, it would be a model of true democracy shown by the Americans in that African land. Mr. McGhee promised to talk the matter over with Colonel Easley and expressed hope that the idea could be realized.

  1. The conversation took place September 18 at Benghazi.