McGhee Files: Lot 53 D 468

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs ( Wainhouse ) and the Director of the Office of African Affairs ( Bourgerie )1


[Subject:] Questions Affecting Libya Which Pelt is Likely to Raise During His Visit to the Department

As you know, we have acceded to Pelt’s insistent desire to come to Washington in the near future for direct talks with the Department on various aspects of the Libyan question. It is expected that Pelt, accompanied by Tom Power, will reach Washington by the first of next week and that talks between the Commissioner and Department officers will take place between June 12 and 14. It is quite likely that Pelt will seek an opportunity to meet with each of you personally. We believe that, for purposes of maintaining a united front in handling the Pelt visit, it is advisable that you meet jointly with the Commissioner. We have arranged that Ambassador Clark extend his stay a few days extra, so that he can take part in the discussions during the Pelt [Page 1327] visit. We cannot encourage Pelt to believe that he can persuade the Department to accept proposals or ideas over Clark’s head.

The topics which Pelt is likely to raise, together with a brief summary of the Department’s position on such topics, are given below.

(1) Pelt’s desire to participate in base rights negotiations with Libya:

Since Pelt first went to Libya he has taken an understanding attitude toward our contemplated base rights agreements with the new state, but has spoken perhaps too freely on the subject with Libyan leaders; he has also nourished the idea that sizeable payments for such rights would be made by the U.S. (and possibly by the UK and France), and that the United Nations would or should have a voice in supervising the expenditure in Libya of such funds. Of late he has been maintaining that he should be brought into the picture during our forthcoming negotiations with the Libyans on the ground that he will be called upon to defend the base arrangements at the next General Assembly. He will advance the view (in talks here) that unless he is given a suitable role in these negotiations he will not be able to give us strong support on this question at the General Assembly in the face of probable Soviet, Middle-Eastern and Arab State charges that the proposed base agreements will compromise Libyan independence.

Department’s Position

The Department’s position is that base rights matters are not the direct concern of the United Nations Commissioner nor of the United Nations itself, though we recognize that the subject is likely to be raised in one form or another at the next General Assembly. We see no possible way in which Pelt could participate in our negotiations with Libya, and assume that the British and French (with whom we intend to coordinate our negotiations) feel the same. We have already indicated to the British that we think our agreement with the Libyans should contain language showing full consistency with the United Nations Charter and even suggesting that the base rights obtained could, under appropriate circumstances be used in support of collective measures which may be taken by the United Nations. We do not wish to antagonize Pelt, but we will have to reassert firmly to him the position described above. Of course, we can assure him that it is our intention to register the Libyan base rights agreement with the United Nations at the proper time.

We urge avoidance of discussion with Pelt and Power of possible payments by the U.S. to Libya for base rights. If he presses the subject, no indication should be given that the U.S. intends to make such payments. As you know, although the Department expects that a lump sum annual payment to Libya will be required, the expenditure (by the Defense Department) of funds for that purpose has not yet been approved by Congress. When our direct negotiations begin, it is intended that our representatives will initially point out the substantial benefits to Libya of improvements and expenditures to be made in connection with Wheelus Air Field as well as the contribution being made through technical assistance. We are not yet committed to offering payments for the right to use military facilities in Libya and the Department wishes to retain a free hand on this for bargaining purposes. Therefore, if Pelt raises the question, a direct answer might be avoided by simply saying that U.S. plans are still under consideration. (For [Page 1328] your information only, the question whether or not we should publicly admit that the U.S. will have agreed to pay Libya for base rights is about to be given high-level review in the State Department).

(2) Future United Nations Machinery in Libya: While there is no evidence that Pelt himself wishes to find a new job for himself in Libya, he has indicated the belief that continuing United Nations machinery for that country would be advisable after independence. He apparently intends, in his report to the General Assembly, to suggest a United, Nations technical and financial commission which would supervise technical assistance and exercise a controlling or supervisory role over financial contributions made in support of the Libyan economy by foreign countries. He argues that only by “inter-nationalizing” such programs can they escape the curse of being branded as a “new colonialism”. If Pelt pursues this idea in his report, the members of the Council for Libya can express their views on the matter in footnotes to the report, but Pelt has the means of getting the proposal before the Assembly if he chooses.

Department’s Position

The Department has made it known, through Clark and others, that we do not favor any additional United Nations supervisory machinery for Libya after independence, which is to take place at the latest by January 1, 1952. Our position is that once Libva is independent outside supervision of any kind, whether by the United Nations or otherwise, is no longer appropriate unless Libya specifically requests such supervision, which does not seem likely. We also feel that establishment of any new United Nations commission would inevitably have the effect of bringing a wide range of Libyan affairs annually to the General Assembly agenda, and we think that most undesirable. On the other hand we see no reason why Libya cannot, at its request, be provided with technical advisers (United Nations and otherwise) who could provide their skills in the necessary fields under the authority of the Libyan government. We would hope to persuade Pelt not to suggest further United Nations machinery in his report to the General Assembly.

(3) Libyan Currency and Financial Arrangements: Pelt will come here fresh from the most recent meetings on Libyan currency and budget in which representatives of the U.S., U.K., France, Italy and Egypt have participated and in which Libya has been represented by an observer. He will doubtless give us his ideas on the effectiveness of the arrangements which may have been concluded at the Geneva meetings, and may seek to tie into such discussion his ideas on United Nations supervision of Libya’s budget, mentioned in (2) above. While the Geneva meetings have not yet ended, it appears that the French and the Italians (though not the Egyptians) are moving toward acceptance of the more conciliatory British proposals which we have been instrumental in eliciting. If accepted, these proposals would bring Libya into the sterling bloc, but would insure Libyan access to other foreign currencies (including dollars) as needed, and would preserve adequate opportunity for the maintenance of French and Italian commercial and cultural ties with Tripolitania and the Fezzan.

Department’s Position

The present trend of discussions at the Geneva meetings is entirely acceptable to the Department and our representatives at Geneva have [Page 1329] helped to bring the British on the one hand and the French and Italians on the other hand closer together. We maintain that on this, as on other matters, the final decision and choice must rest with the Libyans.

(4) Technical Assistance: Sometime ago Pelt indicated that he hoped to discuss technical assistance in Libya with the Department. We do not have recent details as to particular aspects of the program which he wishes to raise. However, we assume that his main object will be to secure our support for continuing momentum both of the United Nations program and our Point Four projects, and for some method of tying in our program with an internationally-backed Libyan economic development board.

Department’s Position

There should be no extraordinary element of controversy in dealing with Pelt on this question except insofar as he may seek to relate it to his idea on some continuing, formal United Nations machinery of a supervisory nature in Libya. Our Point Four agreement with the British (as administering power) for Libya has not yet been signed owing, apparently, to lethargy at some level in the British Government. In a recent meeting with our Point Four people Mr. Clark stressed the urgency of getting this thing going as a matter of keeping faith with the Libyans. Mr. Bourgerie of AF pointed out that the agreement must be concluded before the end of June so that the $150,000 available for this fiscal year can be committed. A cable to London has been sent urging that the British cut through any further delay so that the agreement can be signed in the next two or three weeks. We are, of course, prepared to listen with interest to any progress report which Pelt may wish to give us on United Nations technical assistance in Libya to date. You might advise Pelt that we fully intend that our Point Four program complement, and be coordinated with, the United Nations program, and that conflict or duplication between the two be avoided. However, it will be necessary that the control of our Point Four projects remain in the hands of our own Technical Assistance officials.

(5) Date of Libyan Independence: Pelt is understood to feel that Libyan independence (after complete transfer of power by the U.K. and France) probably cannot be proclaimed until very shortly before the January 1 deadline. He cites “technical difficulties”. He also believes the Libyan question should be placed far down on the General Assembly agenda, so that it would not be considered until well into January or later.

Department’s Position

We feel that Libya will be as ready for independence in late October or November as in December. Egypt (and possibly other states such as Pakistan) may challenge the legality of Libya’s constitutional development, since they want a unitary rather than federal state. Our position is that the whole course of development has been entirely legal and correct. Therefore, if the Libyans desire it, we have no objection to Libyan independence by the time the Assembly convenes.

N.B. Ambassador Clark has seen and concurs in the above statement.

  1. Drafted by Mangano and addressed to Hickerson and McGhee.