711.56373/11–1853: Telegram

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

secret

146. My visit to General Turner (Legtel 139)2 coincided with presence Prime Minister Muntasser and gave us opportunity discuss base rights negotiations with him. Muntasser undertook send message to acting Prime Minister Kekhia urging prompt consideration United States agreement by Council of Ministers. However he privately expressed doubt to me this would be effective until after government installed in Benghazi. He said also that owing to weakness of cabinet and preoccupation with other matters it was unlikely Kekhia could [Page 577]make decisions on draft provisions or accept ultimate responsibility before Parliament of approving present text.

Muntasser assured me that he still believed Libya’s future depended on ties with United States, that he regarded our agreement as top priority objective, and that if he continued as Prime Minister he would conclude negotiations in short order. But whether he remained in office depended first on his health and second on his relations with King. He had benefited by treatment in Germany but still far from well. If on return King declined give him authority he required as Prime Minister he would be in impossible situation. His health might be permanently wrecked if he tried carry on as before.

Muntasser appeared well informed re situation in Libya. He deplored move to Benghazi as wasteful and impractical and was bitterly critical of “dictatorship” by Wali of Tripolitania. He thought government at standstill, that with present trend entire federal structure might as well be abolished to save expense, leaving virtually independent provinces loosely held together under nominal leadership of King. Transaction of government business, including United States base agreement, in Cyrenaican capital would be subject to confusion and unpredictable delay. He was deeply pained at these developments, which could lead only to increased Egyptian influence and ultimate rejection of Western alliances. UK treaty might prove worthless in two or three years with repetition of Canal Zone crisis.3

I told Muntasser I could not argue against his position that he could serve his country successfully only if he were Prime Minister in fact as well as in name. He made it clear that unless he received firm assurances from King to that effect he would insist his still pending resignation be accepted.

Muntasser plans finish vacation in Spain and offered negotiate with me there on major issues in base negotiations if developments warranted. He expects return Libya about middle December, when show down with King will presumably occur.

On above basis it is my belief (1) that there is less than 50–50 chance of Muntasser remaining in power, and (2) that unless Muntasser preserves continuity of our base negotiations we must resign ourselves to delay of indefinite duration in reaching agreement with Libya.

Villard
  1. This telegram was repeated to London, Paris, Benghazi, and Frankfort for CINCEUR.
  2. Sept. 24; not printed. Villard. reported that he and Colonel Anthis, Commanding Officer of Wheelus Field, were going to USAFE headquarters to discuss the status of the base negotiations. (711.56373/11–1153)
  3. For documentation on the Suez Canal crisis, see volume ix .