711.56373/12–1752: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Legation in Libya1


357. After lengthy review tels re Libyan counterproposals to US base agreement and Brit and Fr desires for tripartite conversations on our respective requirements in Libya,2 Dept and Defense approve tactics outlined last two paras Tripoli tel 435 Dec 9.3 In your first conversation [Page 565]with PriMin on his return from Cairo US desire for ratification present agreement shld be reaffirmed as strongly as possible and you shld indicate to PriMin that because of Congressional participation in this matter and urgency mil planning for area US cannot undertake negot of a new agreement. Suggest you approach Muntasser along fol lines:

You cld express our surprise and displeasure at sudden change of attitude on part of Libyan Govt. You shld refrain from saying flatly we cld not in any event consider Libyan counterproposals but you shld make it clear that you have no instructions to proceed on any basis other than the present agreement. Point out that US considers it necessary to proceed with present agreement because of representations already made to Congressional leaders on basis of that agreement.
Important point to emphasize as suggested Tripoli tel 435 is that US Govt has authorized you to discuss question of additional compensation only in relation to present agreement. In mentioning possibility increased compensation you cld tell Muntasser we had counted on early presentation original US agreement to Parliament with assurance PriMin’s support for it.
If desirable, you might review history protracted negotiations leading up to signature agreement Dec 24, 1951, and reiterate facts re great amt financial and econ development assistance Libya is already receiving from several US sources.
On negative side you cld point out that failure to ratify negotiated agreement wld force US to reassess both present and proposed commitments re mil facilities and expenditures in Libya which wld result in permanent diversion of funds already earmarked for such places as Cyrenaica. As pointed out Deptel 340 Dec 9 these funds must be committed by Apr 1953. Defense believes time loss involved in consideration of counterproposals wld effectively eliminate Libya as location of additional bases.

In order impress Muntasser with strength and seriousness US position you may elaborate on above points or use additional arguments as you consider necessary.4

  1. This telegram was drafted by Wellons (AF) and cleared in the offices of Jernegan (NEA), Admiral Smith (Defense), and Cyr (AF). It was repeated to London, Paris, Cairo, Benghazi, and Rome.
  2. Tripoli telegram 424, Dec. 5, informed the Department of State that the Legation felt the Libyan counterproposals constituted a possible basis for negotiations in the event that ratification of the original agreement proved impossible. The Legation considered the present difficulties to stem largely from the fact that the French and British were given copies of the original U.S. draft agreement during the negotiations in 1951. Since the United States had an operative interim agreement of indefinite duration, while the British and French had to conclude agreements or renew their present ones before Dec. 24, the Minister felt the United States would be seriously harmed by tripartite negotiations. (711.56373/12–552) Telegram 340 to Tripoli, Dec. 9, informed the Legation that the Department of Defense strongly opposed renegotiation, since the signed draft was considered completely negotiated and was a signed agreement merely awaiting ratification. (711.56373/12–652)
  3. Not printed; it informed the Department that the Legation considered it impossible to make any decisions about the agreement without first talking to the Prime Minister, who was in Cairo at the time. The last two paragraphs said the Minister felt he should first inform the Prime Minister he had pleaded Libya’s case in Washington and had been authorized to discuss the question of additional compensation in relation to the old agreement, but had no authority to renegotiate. Until he had done that, he considered it unwise to engage in tripartite discussions. (711.56373/12–952)
  4. Tripoli telegram 478, Dec. 23, informed the Department of State that the Minister had had a 2½-hour discussion with the Prime Minister the previous day regarding the base agreement, in which he had closely followed the contents of telegram 357 in explaining the U.S. position. The Prime Minister said that while Villard was in Washington in October, he had realized that Parliament would not ratify the original agreement. At the same time, the United Kingdom and France had submitted agreements similar to that signed with the United States. In addition, the Prime Minister insisted he had been informed when he signed the original agreement that it could later be modified. The Prime Minister said he did not insist on a new agreement, but merely wished to replace parts of the original with sections containing principles safeguarding Libya’s freedom and independence. When pressed by the Minister to say whether or not he was prepared to submit the original agreement to Parliament, Muntasser said he could give no assurance on that point. The Minister said his impression of the conversation was that Muntasser was concerned about the situation, and his attitude seemed based largely on fear of British pressure for treatment equal to the United States. He also thought the Prime Minister might be prepared to overcome possible opposition in Parliament if the price were high enough. (711.56373/12–2352)