Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director, Office of African Affairs (Utter)
- North Africa
- The Secretary
- Dr. Farid Zeineddine, Ambassador of Syria
- NEA—Mr. Byroade
- AF—Mr. Utter
Dr. Zeineddine, as representative of the eight Arab Missions in Washington, called at the Secretary’s request to receive a report on the Mendes-France conversations regarding North Africa, as follows:1
The Secretary stated that Mendes-France had sought support for his policy in North Africa and was told that we could not commit ourselves on this. He hoped that Mendes-France would take a liberal attitude in line with the Pacific Charter regarding self-determination and independence. The Secretary felt that we did not know enough about the situation or details to enable us to have enough confidence to be publicly or privately identified with what was going on in North Africa. These conclusions, he stated, were not readily accepted by Mendes-France.
The French Prime Minister complained strongly against propaganda attacks from outside which made it difficult to solve the North African problem. He cited especially Radio Cairo which he said was using about the same line as Radio Budapest.2
The Secretary expressed the hope that as long as Mendes-France showed good faith in working out conclusions with Tunisian leaders, external elements would not be allowed to aggravate the situation. He made it clear, however, that he was not passing judgment on these elements.
The Secretary felt that the Arab countries for whom Dr. Zeineddine spoke should give Mendes-France a fair chance to deal with the North African matter since he was convinced that Mendes-France was anxious to reach a satisfactory solution. While Mendes-France had no specific plan as yet for Morocco, he believed that success regarding Tunisia would furnish a pattern for Morocco. Mendes-France, the Secretary added, was under heavy attack from the French Parliament and faced a difficult situation on his return to Paris. We who want [Page 184] peace and freedom in North Africa should give Mendes-France a fair chance.
Mr. Byroade pointed out that opposition had arisen in France from those elements unsympathetic to Mendes-France’s policy who claimed uprisings in Algeria resulted from Mendes-France’s liberal attitude toward Tunisia. He believed that we should give support to Mendes-France’s efforts in Tunisia and hoped that outside inimical broadcasts could be moderated, at least during the critical stage of negotiations. He remarked that if Mendes-France falls, it is likely that his successor would not be as liberal toward North Africa and mentioned again the impression of sincerity which Mendes-France gave.
The Secretary recalled that he had spoken with Mendes-France last July in Paris about Indochina and North Africa and how impressed he had been with the attitude shown by the Prime Minister with regard to these questions before the National Assembly. The Secretary believed that Mendes-France takes a more liberal view than his predecessors or those who might follow him. In reference to the communiqué, the Secretary pointed out to Dr. Zeineddine that he had tried to hold an even balance and hoped that results would justify this.
Dr. Zeineddine expressed gratitude for the Secretary’s summary and said that he would convey it to his colleagues. He stated that he thought that they would share his view that the Secretary had done all he could do at this stage. He then remarked that the Damascus Radio would soon begin broadcasts similar to those from Cairo since it was felt that if the North African Arabs listened only to Radio Budapest without hearing from the Arab states that they would turn inevitably toward the Soviet orbit. He felt it was, therefore, better for the Arabs to take some action to keep the North Africans from falling completely under the influence of the Communists. He also added that he felt that if the French stopped repressive measures in North Africa that it would have a salutary effect. He concluded by saying that he had recommended to his Government that it was essential to give Mendes-France help since he was about the best hope that they could have at present.
- Circular telegram 265, Nov. 24, transmitted a summary of this conversation to the posts in Tripoli, Cairo, Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Jidda, Amman, Paris, Tunis, Algiers, Tangier, Rabat, and Casablanca.↩
- Telegram 810 to Cairo, Nov. 23, instructed the Embassy to inform Nasser that the United States considered Mendès-France’s efforts to solve the North African problem sincere and deserving of support. It hoped the Egyptians would desist from actions, primarily the Arab broadcasts from Cairo, that might increase his risk of failure. (751G.00/1–2354)↩