661.74/2–1254: Telegram

No. 1282
The Ambassador in Egypt (Caffery) to the Department of State1


902. Reliable Egyptian source yesterday told Embasy officer in strictest confidence that Soviet Minister of Trade had made attractive offer to Egyptian economic mission recently in Moscow2 for Soviet assistance to Egypt in construction of High Aswan Dam. Source declined reveal details but stated Russians had cleverly made offer “subject to Colonel Abdal Nasir’s personal approval”. Two members of Egyptian mission returned Cairo to transmit proposals to Nasir while remainder of group waited in Moscow.

Source, who was present when two members reported to Nasir, said latter listened attentively to enthusiastic account of Russian proposals. After hearing delegates out, Nasir’s comment was: “That is all very fascinating, but I should put both of you under arrest because you have come back Communists”. Nasir then reportedly gave orders that the two envoys should remain in Cairo and remainder of mission should return with fullest information on Russian [Page 2216] proposals, which would be given “careful consideration” (press reports mission leader, Brigadier Hasan Ragab, arrived Cairo February 10).

Source, who is personally opposed to any Soviet activity in Egypt, states GOE suspicious of Russian intentions and “leary” of traps. He is concerned however because Russian offer “appears very attractive”.

Comment: Whatever Russian intentions are,USSR is already reaping propaganda dividends. Salah Salim told press February 10 that GOE in contact with Russia re economic assistance and that there was “great possibility” Russia would undertake some of Egyptian development schemes “if definite agreement reached on details”.

  1. Repeated to London as telegram 298, to Berlin as telegram 6, and to Moscow as telegram 2.
  2. According to telegram 867 from Moscow, Jan. 18, not printed, the Egyptian economic delegation had arrived in Moscow on Jan. 16. (461.7431/1–1854)