774.00/3–352

No. 967
Memorandum by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Berry) to the Secretary of State

secret

Subject:

  • Significance of Change in Egyptian Government.

It is understood that at the time the Government of Nahas Pasha was dismissed on January 27 following the riots in Cairo, the King desired to appoint Neguib Hilali Pasha as Prime Minister. Hilali Pasha had been expelled from the Wafd in November 1951 and was considered a strong opponent of corruption and graft in the Government. However, Hilali Pasha would not agree to form a Cabinet until he could get some idea of what the British intended to offer in connection with Anglo-Egyptian negotiations. Since time did not allow this, the King agreed to appoint Ali Maher Pasha, but with misgivings.

Since assuming office on January 27, Ali Maher Pasha has been under increasing pressure from the Palace and from those bitterly opposed to the Wafd to take a strong hand against the Wafd and the perpetrators of the January 26 riots. Ali Maher Pasha has resisted this pressure and has endeavored to be all things to all people. He would not suspend Parliament as the King desired as he felt he could work better with the support of the Wafd. The King became increasingly annoyed with Ali Maher’s tactics and arrangements were made to replace Maher. On March 1, apparently on inspiration of the Palace, several newspapers close to Hilali and the Palace published the news that the predominantly Wafd Parliament had been suspended for thirty days. Ali Maher immediately [Page 1773]denied this report. During a stormy cabinet session which followed this denial several of the Ministers demanded that Maher should take a stronger line with the Wafd and place on them the responsibility for January 26. Maher refused and resigned. Hilali Pasha, to whom the Premiership was offered on February 25, agreed within a few hours to form a new Government.

The significance in the appointment of Hilali Pasha is that the King now has a government in which he has confidence and one which according to all sources will deal sternly with corruption, graft and subversion. The members of the Cabinet are known principally as anti-Wafd. Most of them have previously been either ministers or under secretaries.

While Hilali Pasha has a reputation for honesty and integrity and is strongly anti-Communist, there is little reason to believe that Hilali will compromise on Egyptian nationalist aspirations. It is too early to know exactly what line Hilali will take, but evidence suggests that he will insist upon the evacuation of foreign troops from the Canal Zone and will require recognition of Egyptian sovereignty over the Sudan, possibly subject to later self-determination by the Sudanese. It may be expected that Hilali with the backing of the King will maintain internal security with a strong hand and will not tolerate the repetition of January 26 incidents. However, if Hilali is not able to achieve Egyptian nationalist aspirations, the Wafd may be expected to arise again, although this may take a considerable period of time.