The Ambassador in France (Dillon) to the Department of State
2471. North African debate got under way in Assembly last night with six interpellations critical of government. Four were unimpressive and in two cases representative of constituents’ interests in North [Page 185]Africa. However, Bidault and Rene Mayer were listened to attentively.
Bidault’s speech was not violent and was slightly marred by altercation with Mitterand. Principal points he made were:
- There is only one legitimate sovereign of Morocco, Ben [Moulay Arafa] and Assembly must be consulted if any change envisaged.
- Normally there should be three debates, one on each of three territories because of different juridical situation in each.
- It is recognized solutions in all three territories should be harmonious and certainly not contradictory.
- Government seems to have failed to realize whatever is done in one territory has repercussions in others and there is striking disparity between treatment given outlaws in Tunisia and in Algeria.
- France must never forget her Moslem friends in North Africa.
- Government should state clearly where its North African policy is leading.
Rene Mayer spoke in low. measured tones and was applauded on occasion by all elements Assembly except Communists. Mendes-France applauded some of his statements and shook his hand following speech. His main points were:
- He believes in autonomy for Tunisia but not independence while Bourghiba has clearly stated in appeal to neo-Destour Congress and elsewhere he considers any negotiations with French merely interim measures leading to independence.
- “I have always feared negotiations with the Tunisian Government would begin on basis of comfortable misunderstandings”.
- Fellagah problem is one of maintenance of order, and it is impossible to explain French residents North Africa and pro-French Moslems why French Government welcoming Fellagah back as conquering heroes in Tunisia and pursuing them vigorously with troops in Algeria.
- Return of expeditionary corps from Indochina should permit establishment stronger military force in North Africa.
- France must face frankly fact Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are only remaining Moslem territories still in dependent status.
- Speaking of Algeria, French Republic is indivisible but not necessarily uniform and there is no harm in having different statutes covering different parts of Republic.
- Peace in North Africa is essential element of world peace and government should define broad and non-contradictory policy for this vital area.
Despite critical nature of interpellations, not unusual in debate of this nature, consensus of opinion seems to be Mendes-France will obtain passage motion approving government’s policy at end of debate which will continue today and tonight probably until early tomorrow morning. While great majority Social Republicans and Independents oppose Mendes-France North African policy, it is not believed they desire (especially Social Republicans) upset applecart before debate on ratification Paris agreements.