711.56373/11–951: Telegram

The Consul General at Tripoli (Lynch) to the Department of State 1

top secret

193. Concurrently with mytel 1912 reporting reaction of Council of Mins to US offer $750,000 per year for 20 years Libya to be responsible for rentals without reimbursement, I desire earnestly and urgently to emphasize to Dept certain polit aspects present problem which have played part in leading me to conclusion that Libyan offer shld be accepted by US.

With possible exception of Saudi Arabia, Libya was only govt in Arab world sincerely friendly to United States. In the course of time it will become member of Arab League. Libya can be our bridge to rest of Arab world and, if we handle present situation wisely, gaining its friendship might well be step in retrieving our position in Middle East. To lose this opportunity by refusing pay equitable rentals desired by Libyans wld I believe be serious polit error.

I wld not push this viewpoint if I thought we were getting a bad bargain otherwise. However, it is my belief that we have achieved as good if not considerably better agreement than in other parts of the world.

We must recognize some of the very serious problems confronting this govt and why they deem it essential that they receive a substantial [Page 1362]round sum which they can use free of deductions and that they can not be charged with selling their country down the river. There is a spreading belief, fed by Egypt propaganda, that without presence in area of Americans and Brit they cld somehow escape holocaust of war and that presence of Americans and Brit will bring war to them. It is the same sort of unrealistic unsound reasoning that was so fatal to small European countries such as Holland and Belgium during last war. Nevertheless, no matter how wrong idea may be it has popular appeal and is difficult to combat. In order help them combat it we must give them ammunition in the shape of concrete evidence that their future welfare is bound up with ours.

Neither in conversation Nov 5 nor this morning did I make mention of possible suspension of negots because I feel such action wld inject an entirely new and discordant note into discussions which up to now have been on most friendly basis. When negots opened PriMin and FonMin stated that they trusted us completely. They have comported themselves in that manner throughout and have not even carried through their not unreasonable suggestion that they obtain a Moslem legal adviser. It is obvious, however, that if they wished to do so they cld produce an Egypt or Iraqi adviser who wld not view certain provisions of agreement with sympathetic eye, particularly those having to do with personal status of US forces in Libya.

3. Seems to me to be every reason why negots shld not be discontinued. Libyan Govt feels we are its friend. It is about to launch forth as an independent sovereign state. Our mutual relations for years to come will be affected by the result of these negots and the manner in which they are conducted. I fear that if we ourselves introduce note of haggling whole atmosphere will undergo undesirable alteration.

Day of independence is approaching and it may be expected within next 6 weeks, actual date depending upon whether or not Libyan question is high or low on UNGA agenda. Libyans will not sign any agreement prior to convening and approval of elected Parliament. They are prepared exchange notes. If those notes can use present draft agreement for governing interim period we shall be in much sounder position than by exchange making reference to “status quo”. The “status quo” is extremely nebulous and in fact has been a matter of day to day decisions made by Brit after consultation with us. We can do that sort of thing with Brit but with Libyans who will be constantly subject to polit pressures it will be far more difficult.

In our note of Feb 3, 1948, to USSR we stated “that the continuation of the arrangement with regard to the use of Mellaha Airfield For Communication Purposes extends only for the period during which the present administration remains responsible for the territory.” (Mellaha Airfield is Wheelus AFB). In the exchange of notes between Brit FonOff and London Emb we refer repeatedly to mil air [Page 1363]transit and landing rights in Tripolitania. Sound and sight jet fighters engaged training operations is too continuous to be concealed. It appears, therefore, that if we find ourselves without an agreement on independence day, or without prepared notes which Libyans and ourselves are ready to sign we may be placed in embarrassing position internationally.

Finally, $1 million per year plus equitable rentals for 20 years does not seem unreasonable in view of the fact that we are thinking in terms of 7 additional airfields, Navy communications facility near Derna, ARC Akins project outside Tripoli, and 500 square miles for an amphibious and divisional training area for Army and Marine Corps. Certainly not when it is compared with what we have paid for much small areas in other countries. Here we have not been able obtain comparable privileges for American forces. It is not, however, the actual areas which may be involved which disturbs me most but the fact that in order for the agreement to be any good to us it must also be good for the Libyans and one which they can sell to their people. I trust that this is apparent to the Dept as it is to us on the spot.

Negotiating team concurs with views set forth in this tel.

Lynch
  1. Repeated to USAF, AFOAB, OSAF, CNO, and Army.
  2. Dated November 8; not printed. It advised the Department of State the Council of Ministers had unanimously rejected the U.S. offer of November 5 and felt compelled to stand by their previous proposal that they would accept $1 million per year for 20 years with the United States additionally reimbursing Libya with equitable rentals for lands acquired on its behalf. (711.56373/11–851)