The Consul at Benghazi (More) to the Department of State1
Benghazi, September 8, 1952—9 p.m.
38. From Villard.
- I had hour’s interview with King Sept 6 regarding base rights agreement (mytel 34).2 No one else was present except my interpreter and atmosphere was friendly and informal throughout.
- After referring to personal ltr which I had reed from PriMin asking for reconsideration of terms of agrmt, I said I had submitted [Page 548]matter to Dept in accordance Muntasser’s request and then described contents of reply I had made pending official answer from Washington. I added that in my personal opinion it wld be extremely difficult for my govt to consider request for more than one million dollars econ aid because I had been present when Libya’s insistence on that figure had been discussed and I recalled that it had only been agreed upon with difficulty as maximum. Negots had taken many months and I was under impression agrmt had been signed in good faith on both sides.
- King had evidently been briefed by PriMin and said he knew something about the situation. Muntasser was afraid he wld be accused by members of Parliament of not acting in best interests of the country if he adhered to original sum. Intention had been to present agrmt at last session of Parliament, but after sounding out sentiment it had been decided not to do so because agrmt wld have been rejected. King said that members of Parliament believed what they heard and what they read in the papers and when they saw that US was giving so much more econ assistance to other Middle Eastern countries they felt that Libya was not receiving fair share.
- I asked whether His Majesty had in mind amount other countries were receiving under Point Four. He said he did not know, only that assistance they were getting from the US was much greater than that given to Libya. He said legislators did not distinguish between different types of aid, but from publicized accounts they knew extent of US econ aid to other countries of Middle East and rest of world. I explained Libya constituted precedent in that it was only country I knew of which wld receive outright cash payment in addition to Point Four program. This apparently made little impression.
- I said I assumed agrmt wld be presented to Parliament at next session. King replied in affirmative. I then asked what wld situation be if additional compensation were not forthcoming. King answered that position of PriMin wld be very critical and that he and his colleagues wld again be accused of neglecting their duty toward their country.
- I mentioned that Navy was only awaiting ratification before starting Derna project. King made noncommittal gesture of assent. I pointed out ratification wld speed plans for other USAF projects in Libya, to which he made no comment.
- I again referred to situation if increased payments were impossible to obtain and asked whether he cld help personally by discussing subj with legislators. King said Parliament was not now in session and before taking any action he wld have to consult PriMin, ascertain who [Page 549]was principally responsible for objections to agrmt, etc. I suggested that when reply was recd from Washington matter cld be considered further, in which he concurred.
- When I reminded him that my views were at this stage personal ones and wld doubtless be supplemented later, King said he wished to thank me for clarifying the various points touched upon, some of which he was not aware of and others he did not know enough details.
- At conclusion of interview I showed King summary of anti-American article in Al Leebi of Aug 25 containing such statements as: “The real object of Point Four is to make us indebted to US without our ever receiving loan, to make us prisoners of tyranny masking as charity,” “If US wishes treat us thus, then she must remain here only as unwelcome guest;” “We are being militarily exploited;” “There are other hidden political motives;” “They (the Americans) receive everything and give nothing. It is enough for them to drug us with Point Four,” etc. I said articles of this kind, which were appearing with greater frequency, cld well be misinterpreted in US when Libya was asking for more money. Just as members Libyan Parliament believe what they hear and read about US, so US Congressmen and taxpayers might form very unfavorable impression of Libyan attitude toward US econ aid, thus doing harm to Libyan cause. I said that I of course did not take these irresponsible attacks seriously, but that I felt constrained to mention Al Leebi’s increasingly virulent campaign for this reason.
- King replied to above stating that Libyan people had only friendliest feelings for US and that he was extremely sorry to see this “imitation of Egyptian newspapers” writing “such poisons,” which cld probably be ascribed to extremist patriots trying to show off. He seemed to take matter seriously, however, and repeated his regrets before my departure when he urged me not to believe any statements of this character.
- I have impression as result of interview that King felt concern at my remarks, that he did not know too much about subj of base agrmt and that he will have to look into it further. At same time he seemed keenly appreciative of difficulties PriMin will face in Parliament when agrmt comes up for ratification, especially as regards attitude supposedly held by members both houses that US is giving large amounts of aid to other countries and that Libya’s share is too small. We shall have to take that attitude directly into account if we expect to press for ratification on basis present terms.