883A.14/6–1451: Telegram

The Chargé in Lebanon (Bruins) to the Department of State 1

confidential

758. Dept pass Cairo. Resignation of Rene Busson as Pres and DiGen of Banque de Syrie et du Liban announced June 10 by bank’s board of directors in Paris, which also named Emile Oudot, senior director, as temporary successor (Busson has been in Paris for several weeks).

This news was bombshell since Busson was top exponent Fr influence this area. Up to now there have been no indications that Fr wld accede to any such move in direction of decreasing her own influence or that Leb auths wld dare bring pressure for such action. This wld not necessarily apply to action by Syrian auths.

Leg has been attempting to ascertain motivations, especially whether initiative came from Fr or from Syria-Leb. Authoritative sources are reticent, but best guess, based on background info and persons usually well informed, is that Busson’s resignation was requested because bank’s board in Paris (1) was displeased at his involvement in deals on side which netted him and friends large personal profits, and (2) that appointment his enemy, Philip Takla, as Leb FinMin June 7 presaged difficulties for bank. Leg desp 6692 gives further background.

Busson’s removal makes it possible that hitherto dominant Fr influence in Leb financial affairs may decline, at least for next year or two until successor can get his roots down. Possibility exists that hitherto poorly organized Leb MinFin under Takla may be modernized and may pursue policy less restricted by influence of Fr controlled, semi-monopolistic, unregulated bank.

Leg believes we cld take advantage this situation by offering Takla (1) Amer team of fiscal experts to modernize present muddled budgetary and accounting system of ministry of [apparent omission] (2) financial assistance under mutual security program when approved by Congress for implementing Point IV surveys already under way, or both. Before doing so, Leg requests Dept’s reaction as to whether it desires to promote Amer interests in this manner and if so, to what extent we are prepared to take advantage of this turn of events. Since Leb wld doubtless be slow to request our aid, best means of approach, [Page 1004]if Dept so authorizes, wld be to sound out Takla informally. During his recent term as FonMin he was quite friendly to US and, as Dept is aware, is protégé of Pres of Leb.

Bruins
  1. Repeated to Paris, Damascus, and Cairo for Parker. Pinkerton, the former Minister in Lebanon, left the post on April 24.
  2. June 13, not printed.