711.56373/7–3052: Telegram

The Minister in Libya (Villard) to the Department of State1


79. In absence of PriMin I inquired of his Brit adviser, Lord Oxford, whether our base agreement was likely to come up for ratification soon. I was surprised and rather disturbed to find that Oxford was repeating recent Libyan arguments that annual contribution of million dollars was very little indeed for US to pay for vital base rights and that it might be hard to convince Libyan Parliament sum shld not be substantially raised. In customs revenue alone Libya stood to lose much more than million dollars by exemptions under the agreement and it was only natural to expect that some deputies wld regard our proposed payment as out of all proportion to what US was spending for military facilities all over the world.

I pointed out that econ benefits to Libya of Wheelus Field in the form of local employment, rentals, food purchases, construction contracts, [Page 544]etc. ran into several millions yearly and that from what I knew of present mood in Congress it was extremely unlikely our expected contribution of one million dollars in addition to Point IV aid cld be increased at all. Oxford said that first part of my statement was economic argument which might appeal to some people but not to politicians and that second part wld require campaign of education before Libyans were convinced that US was unable to raise the ante.

If Oxford’s remarks are indicative of parliamentary attitude, we may well be confronted with situation bordering on blackmail. There is complete absence of leadership in Parliament and unless PriMin personally makes it his business to push agreement through, it is impossible to predict when ratification may take place. In case my discussion with Muntasser and King seem to be leading nowhere, I shld appreciate Dept informing me how far I may go in confirming or elaborating statement of Asst Secy of Air Huggins to PriMin on July 17 (mytel 50, July 19).2 Prospect of air base near Benghazi with attendant econ benefits wld have great appeal to Cyrenaicans and might be strong inducement to favorable action in Parliament.3

  1. This telegram was repeated to Benghazi.
  2. Not printed; it reported Huggins had told the Prime Minister that the Air Force contemplated the possibility of additional construction in Cyrenaica, but said that further USAF expenditures in Libya depended to some extent on Libyan cooperation in ratifying the base agreement. The telegram ended by informing the Department that the Prime Minister was leaving Tripoli on July 21 to spend the rest of the summer near the King in Jebel. (711.56373/7–1952)
  3. Telegram 10 to Benghazi, Aug. 1, said that USAF requirements in Cyrenaica were under review. The Navy, however, was only waiting for ratification of the base agreement and a reasonable rental arrangement before going ahead with a communication facility at Derna. The telegram concluded by suggesting that if the Minister could not convince the Libyans that $1 million per year for 20 years was fair compensation, he could inform them that their request for greater compensation would compel the U.S. Government to review its military requirements in Cyrenaica. (711.56373/8–152)