711.56373/12–652: Telegram

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

confidential

429. While I realize difficulty in finding Arabic speaking officer to serve at this legation, I wish to point out increasingly serious handicap in our relations with Libyan Govt owing to absence of any Arabic speaking officer on my staff. As Dept knows, it has been necessary to transfer from Benghazi Palestinian Arab to serve as interpreter and translator here. Latter is believed trustworthy and renders commendable service, but I question advisability of employing non-American to [Page 564]translate such top secret or secret documents as Libyan counter-proposals to our base agreement (Legtel 405 Dec 1).1

My situation compares most disadvantageously with that of British and French Ministers, who not only speak and write Arabic fluently but have several officers of their own nationality competent in the Arabic language. This Legation had no such comparable staff member and it required nearly three days to complete translation of recent Libyan counter-proposals. Libyan foreign office has notified foreign legations that commencing next March all correspondence with it must be in Arabic. Communications from foreign office already being received in that language. If it should become necessary to carry on protracted negotiations re base agreement, need for translations will be even more acute.

We are entirely unprepared to cope with this growing problem. I strongly urge that Arabic speaking FSO be assigned Tripoli, possibly instead of Gatch or at least that Arabic specialist reserve officer be sent here on temporary basis soonest.

Villard
  1. Not printed, but see footnote 1, supra .