773.00/4–954: Telegram

The Consul at Benghazi (Summers) to the Department of State1

confidential priority

88. From Villard. Re Benghazi telegram 87, April 8.2

Yesterday afternoon King ordered Mustafa Ben Halim, Minister of Communications in former Cabinet, to form new government. He began consultations last night assisted by Abdullah Abed.

Exact cause fall of Saqezli Government obscure but presumably connected with developments following Supreme Court order in Ali Deeb’s case. Court’s decision has still not been published although its terms generally known. Decision has been questioned from local point of view by court judges Ramzi and Dajani and King apparently furious over Sadawi type political comments which decision included in favor of unitary Libyan state, abolition of provincial authority and limited functions of Monarch.

Egyptian Minister told me King’s reaction to court’s decision was severe blow to Egypt’s position in Libya since viewpoint of Egyptian members of court had just been openly flouted. He felt court could have no stand in following this episode and would have to be dissolved.

As Department is aware, Ben Halim is shrewd politician and good friend of Shalhi and the King. He is authoritanian, ruthless, personally ambitious, and when Nazir of works in Cyrenaica was generally considered dishonest. It can be expected that if he forms government it will carry out King’s wishes without regard for constitutional niceties. (Ben Halim has often said constitution is much too advanced for Libya.) His relations with Parliament may be difficult, however. He is not personally popular with Cyrenaican deputies and his relations with those of Tripolitania are uncertain. Therefore, high-handed methods he used in dealing with Cryenaica’s legislative council may not work with Parliament. Approval of budget, which is opposed by many Tripolitanians, is first item of importance on Parliamentary program and would provide good test Ben Halim’s influence.

Legation believes that if Ben Halim can form government,3 base negotiations should proceed speedily since he has shown himself cooperative and helpful in discussions to date. He has sent me message to effect that interruption in negotiations should not be of long duration.

  1. This telegram was repeated to Tripoli and Frankfort for CINCEUR.
  2. Not printed; it informed the Department of State that the Saqezli government had resigned at noon, Apr. 8. It said the reasons were not yet known, but the base negotiations had been suspended for the time being. (711.56373/4–854)
  3. Despatch 428 from Tripoli, Apr. 16, transmitted the names of the members of Prime Minister Ben Halim’s cabinet, which had been announced on Apr. 12. (773.00(W)/4–1654)