711.56373/1–653: Telegram

The Minister in Libya (Villard) to the Department of State1

secret

509. Re Legtel 508 January 6.2 It now seems obvious that Prime Minister cannot be induced to submit original agreement to Parliament for ratification, even with additional compensation, because he has committed himself and Council of Ministers to proposition that certain principles safeguarding Libyan sovereignty must be incorporated in our agreement. Question is to what extent it may be necessary go along with these principles in order allow Prime Minister save face and enable him to say he has renegotiated agreement on terms satisfactory to Libya, acceptance of which he can recommend to Parliament. Legation believes that gap between provisions original agreement and counterproposals is not so great as it may appear and that it is worth an immediate and intensive effort on our part to explore possibility of reaching compromise which would preserve essentials of our original agreement and at same time recognize Libyan desire to make provision for cherished principles of sovereignty.

With this end in view, Legation has prepared study of counterproposals in relation to old agreement and believes that it could initiate informal conversations on subject with Libyans without delay. A week at most would show whether possibility existed of coming together. If Department decides attempt should be made, it would be essential start at once, otherwise British negotiations will probably set the pace and blunt Libyan eagerness to do business with United States as preferred party. Naturally, Legation would in no way commit Department in course of such discussions but would simply endeavor arrive at some common ground which could be referred to Department for its consideration. If compromise can be reached without sacrifice our basic needs, perhaps within confines of somewhat shorter document than present agreement, it would be far more satisfactory in long run than to insist on provisions which would rankle in Libyan mind and be source of charge of “imperialism” in years to come.

I believe that ample goodwill exists on Libyan side to insure receptive attitude to approach along above lines. This is advantage which [Page 568]should not be lost sight of, since it is constantly emphasized in our conversations with Libyans. It would doubtless be lost quickly if we formed tripartite front, or permitted British to do negotiating for us. Prime Minister and other members of Cabinet with whom I have conversed on matter insist that it would not be difficult to agree on few principles Libyan Government considers necessary to include in our agreement. My impression in this respect is borne out by after dinner conversation which Counselor Legation had yesterday with Prime Minister. Latter said he foresaw no difficulty in reaching agreement with United States; that Parliament would consider that Libyan sovereignty would be impinged by terms of present agreement, and that he was trying to establish set of principles to safeguard such sovereignty. He mentioned difficulties of granting privileges to other states and indicated, without saying so in so many words, that United States would get far more liberal treatment than other states within the orbit of the general principles he conceives necessary to safeguard Libyan sovereignty. When asked specifically if parliamentary members had actually indicated that present agreement was contrary to Libyan sovereignty, he was most emphatic in stating that such was the case, using the Italian word “certo” to emphasize his point.

Prime Minister also indicated to my Counselor that, as validity base agreement provisional upon its ratification and as ratification had proved to be impossible, the re-discussion of its terms would, in such circumstances, fall within the framework of the interim arrangements.

I hope that while moment is ripe Department will authorize Legation to engage in exploratory conversations on informal basis as described above. Colonel Anthis concurs.

Villard
  1. This telegram was repeated to London, Paris, and Benghazi.
  2. Not printed; it reported receipt of a note from the Prime Minister, dated Jan. 3, which the Legation interpreted as a complete rejection of its request that the Dec. 24 agreement be submitted to the Parliament for ratification. (711.56373/1–653)