711.56373/11–2252: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Department of State1


2920. From Villard. I had meeting with Allen and Garnett of Foreign Office this morning re Libya. In response their request for my views, I said I felt Libyan note concerning renegotiation entire base agreement probably resulted French2 concern after studying text British draft agreement that they were getting in too deep. I noted in this connection that UK draft appears go considerably further than US agreement. Allen questioned this. In drafting agreement, Foreign Office had two main considerations in mind:

To meet as many Libyan objections as possible.
To make draft conform as closely as possible to US draft. Foreign Office had thought that it would make matters easier for Libyan [Page 559]Government to obtain ratification if two agreements were stated in similar terms. There were undoubtedly provisions in UK agreement which were different but he did not think agreement as whole went much further than ours. Allen went on to say Muntasser told Kirkbride it is going to be difficult get British agreement through Parliament because of its similarity US agreement. Muntasser also said in effect that if UK plans get its draft through Parliament, it must help influence US to change its agreement to make it more acceptable.

Re British treaty, Allen said he thought agreement had been reached. Final approval HMG still required but he hoped this could be obtained and treaty initialed before Christmas. Libyans have taken line they cannot sign treaty until military and financial agreements completed. Then presumably whole package would be put before Libyan Parliament.

I said I was greatly surprised and puzzled by latest Libyan move. Except for duration and financial provisions, Libyans had never criticized our agreement. Muntasser told me that with increase of contribution, he thought he could get ratification. It was for that reason I had gone back to Washington to discuss problem. I had now been authorized offer an additional sum. Naturally, I was under instructions obtain agreement as cheaply as possible. My task would, of course, be greatly complicated by latest indications Libyan demands would be more extensive.

Allen said Foreign Office also was greatly perturbed about this development. It has been examining problem posed by Libyan request that UK make fixed contribution rather than subsidize deficit. Kirkbride had expressed opinion it would be best try to yield to Libyans on this point. Otherwise, there would be recurring battle every year when UK reviews budget. Fixed contribution, however, poses following difficulties for British:

It is hard to get Parliament to vote fixed sum over period of 20 years, since usual procedure is to make appropriations annually;
Awkward precedence would be created with respect other countries with which UK has similar agreements;
Whole basic relationship between UK and Libya would be changed. It would be more difficult control Libyan economy and assure that funds are spent in financially sound ways.

In effort solve these difficulties, HMG thinking of agreeing principle of fixed annual contribution for 20 years, but fixing amount of contribution for shorter period, say three or five years, with provision for review at end that time. Re next year’s contribution, HMG considering abandoning provision for scrutiny in this year’s agreement and simply fixing arbitrary figure. UK would insist good proportion this money pass through development agency, thereby permitting British retain some control. He did not think, however, UK would increase [Page 560]present one-half million pounds ceiling on funds paid to development agency.

I said Libyans and ourselves had agreed tacitly that for first year our contribution would go through development agency. Since then, however, Libyans have made it clear they do not want adopt same procedure in future. They have talked vaguely of setting up agricultural bank for benefit small farmers, but have failed otherwise to be specific in indicating other purposes to which they might put funds. We will certainly stipulate funds must be used for economic development, but have not yet worked out whether we can attach more strings as well. Allen suggested we should consider whether, despite Libyan objections, US should not utilize development agency, which would permit some control on use of funds. I explained that if this were to be case, we would probably want to join agency, but that this presented problems since act of Congress would be required. Nevertheless, we would hope Libyans would listen to our advice re expenditure of funds, relying on either local Point IV experts or possibly somebody sent out from Wash.

Reverting to Libyan desire renegotiate entire agreement, Allen felt it important US, UK, and France endeavor keep in step. We must make every effort dissuade Libya from indulging in blackmail tactics and playing one against others. French were resting uneasy. French Embassy off had suggested to Foreign Office this morning joint UK-French talks on subject, preferably with US participation as well. He presumed French would be making similar demarche to US and suggested it might be good idea hold such conversations while I was still in London. I said I could not, of course, agree such suggestion without clearance from Washington. I thought it would be best if UK went ahead and discussed problem with French. I added that I could not quite understand French eagerness hold such conversations. I had impression from French Legation in Tripoli that French resigned to situation created by Muntasser’s comment that nothing could be done about French agreement until US and UK agreements had been disposed of.3

Allen felt explanation was simply that French attach importance their agreement as we do. He agreed French unpopular in Libya and that path not smoothed by their participation in this problem. He suggested, however, that French had one trump card which might benefit us all, namely their special position in Fezzan. Libyans under constant apprehension French might split this from rest of Libya and [Page 561]we might reach point where it would be desirable for French do a little blackmailing of their own. He felt UK would, in any event, have to talk to French, since it has not brought them up to date on its thinking re financial contribution. Since French have similar problem, he thought it desirable bilateral discussion take place. If US willing participate, he thought it would be useful.

I again evaded suggestion, saying I thought it perhaps premature hold tripartite discussions until we knew more about background Libyan note to us and perhaps until we had seen Libyan counterproposals. I said moreover I still had some hope I might be able forestall counterproposals on my return Tripoli. I asked whether Kirkbride could not help dissuade Libyans. Allen said he hoped Kirkbride was already making such efforts but if he were not, Foreign Office would suggest that he consider doing so. In that case, Kirkbride would probably have to emphasize UK interests. Allen also suggested we try persuade Pitt-Hardacre explain to Libyans benefits our agreement and dangers inherent in reopening it.

Allen asked if we had given any thought to what we would do if Libyans refused ratify agreement. I said I could conceive of Department instructing me to tell Libyans that we decline renegotiate agreement which we had fairly reached between us and signed. If we chose stand on this line, Libyans could not throw us out. This could pinprick us and make things uncomfortable for us, however, and situation would be unsatisfactory in that it was doubtful we could undertake any expansion of facilities which US Air Force might have in mind.

Allen said situation would also be difficult for British. Interim arrangement which presently covers status British forces in Libya comes to an end December 24 and will have to be renegotiated. Under present arrangement, UK cannot increase its military forces without Libyan agreement nor undertake expansion of facilities necessitated, for example, if decision taken evacuate canal base. Allen went on to note that if we stand firm, Muntasser might well threaten to resign. I said that in past we had thought Muntasser’s resignation would be calamity and had gathered British agreed. It might, however, be necessary face that possibility. Great problem was who would succeed him. After examining possibilities, Allen and I agreed there was no promising alternative to Muntasser. There was also danger that any successor might prove even more intransigent, especially if Muntasser resigned on base agreement issue. Allen observed that if suitable successor could not be found, Libya might start down slope which would result in eventual break-up Federal Government into component parts. In such case perhaps base agreements could be negotiated with provincial administrations. He did not regard this as desirable course for events to take, nor was he advocating it, He was merely noting that it might happen. He suggested also that we might try [Page 562]to make King see that if base problem not settled and Muntasser resigned on this issue, there was danger of Libya drifting toward break-up. I said that I thought we should keep possibility of approach to King in mind. I was not however, optimistic it would be productive since my past experience with King indicated that he was purposely evasive on questions of this kind, on which he always expressed desire consult Muntasser. Allen agreed and doubted that we could expect much help from King until we had reached point where we were prepared to stick and refuse Libyan demands for further concessions. Then, however, it might be posssible make King see necessity for intervening. Main danger under such circumstance might be that Libyans would accept agreements which they sincerely did not like. He thought experience in Egypt had shown that it was not good having agreements of this kind which were not in accordance with the wishes of the governments and peoples concerned. I agreed fully.

Comment: I hope Dept will approve my action in evading question of participating in trilateral discussions here. My reasons for doing so are the same as those outlined in Embtel 2909, Nov 21.4

  1. This telegram was repeated to Tripoli.
  2. A handwritten note in the margin indicated that “fresh” was probably the word intended rather than “French”, which appears in the source text.
  3. On Dec. 24, 1951, the French and Libyans had signed two temporary agreements. A military agreement allowed France to retain French forces in Fazzan for 6 months, pending signing of a permanent treaty, with the option of renewing the temporary agreement for another 6 months if a permanent agreement had not been signed. In a financial agreement, the French agreed to give the Libyans each year a sum equal to the financial deficit in Fazzan. (Khadduri, Modern Libya, p. 258)
  4. Not printed; the Minister said he rejected the tripartite approach because it would wipe out the lead the United States already had over the others and bring negotiations down to the lowest common denominator. (711.56373/11–2152)