711.56373/9–1152: Telegram

The Consul at Benghazi (More) to the Department of State1

secret

41. From Villard. I have discussed with PriMinMuntasser our exchange of correspondence re base agreement.2 He said he relied on me to persuade US Govt of Libya’s need for additional compensation and confidently looked forward to favorable response from Washington. I replied this imputed to me greater powers than I possessed and that I was afraid he might be disappointed.

Muntasser’s principal argument, like that of King (mytel 38)3 was that Parliament had heard of large US expenditures for econ aid in other countries and felt that Libya should receive more generous treatment. This of course is pure hold up, implication being that if US can afford 1 million compensation it can just as well afford 2 million. When I reminded him that he himself had set figure of 1 million, Muntasser said that agreement had been concluded under pressure and that he could not have known how strongly members of Parliament would feel that this sum was inadequate.

For first time question of Israel entered into conversation. PriMin said that when Libyans compared amount of US econ aid to Israel with what they were receiving natural reaction was sense of injustice and discrimination. (While King did not mention Israel in our interview I have feeling he may have had it specifically in mind when speaking of “other countries in Middle East.”)

Muntasser’s arguments on duration of agreement were self contradictory. He said Libya would like Americans to stay here indefinitely and would be glad of protection of US forces, but that public opinion would not be favorable to more then ten or perferably five year period for agrmt. He suggested that some formula could be worked out providing for renewal of agreement for additional periods considered necessary by US and containing adequate assurance that use of installations would not meanwhile be terminated by Libya. When I said, “suppose we took your word and limited the agreement to ten years?” He protested, “surely you wouldn’t want to abandon Libya so soon!”

[Page 551]

After friendly debate on various other aspects of our correspondence, we agreed to defer further discussion until receipt of Dept’s reply.4

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  1. This telegram was repeated to Tripoli and London.
  2. Tripoli telegram 145, Sept. 6, transmitted the text of the Minister’s reply to the Prime Minister’s letter of Aug. 29, summarized in Benghazi telegram 34, Sept. 2, p. 545. In the Sept. 6 letter, Villard informed the Prime Minister he could not encourage any hope that the United States would be willing to make any changes in the base agreement. The United States considered $1 million per year during the life of the agreement to be fair compensation; and it could not justify expensive installations at Wheelus Field or any other locality for a period of less than 20 years. (711.56373/9–652)
  3. Supra .
  4. Regarding the Department of State reply, telegram 166 to Tripoli, Sept. 24, see footnote 2, p. 553.