152. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, August 30, 1956, 5:35 p.m.1


  • Call by the British Minister; Suez Question


  • The Secretary
  • Under Secretary
  • Mr. J.E. Coulson, Minister, British Embassy
  • Miss Barbara Salt, Counselor, British Embassy
  • Mr. Francis O. Wilcox, IO
  • Mr. David W. Wainhouse, IO
  • Mr. William M. Rountree, NEA
  • Mr. Fraser Wilkins, NE

Minister Coulson and Miss Barbara Salt of the British Embassy joined the Secretary and his colleagues at a meeting this afternoon [Page 336] on the subject of several questions arising from letters addressed to the President by Prime Minister Eden and to the Secretary by the British Foreign Secretary.2 In the latter communication the possibility of consideration by the Security Council of the United Nations of the Suez question in the event of a failure of the work of the Suez Committee was discussed.

Minister Coulson said that following his conversation with the Secretary yesterday he had been in touch with London and had received a number of replies which he had been requested to communicate to the Secretary orally. Minister Coulson said that as a result of the observations made by the Secretary, the British Foreign Office now believed that if it were necessary to refer the Suez question to the Security Council it should be taken up under Article 39 of Chapter VII, rather than Article 35 of Chapter VI. He handed the Secretary a British draft of the proposed Security Council resolution (Tab A).3

Minister Coulson continued that Selwyn Lloyd had made a number of additional observations: (1) It was important that there be a group of five countries which would be able to block diversionary tactics in the Security Council. The British believe this group might consist of the UK, France, Belgium, Iran and the United States. The British felt certain that France and Belgium would be in accord with the British view. They also believed that Iran would support their position because Nasser’s continued success would inevitably lead to an undermining of the pro-Western Iran Government and its collapse. The British Foreign Secretary hoped the United States would support the British position. The British Foreign Minister continued that Egypt would undoubtedly be heard by the Security Council but that additional countries might be excluded by the group on the grounds that the question is now a dispute rather than a situation.

The Secretary read the British draft of the proposed Security Council resolution and observed that the shift from Article 35 to Article 39 was an extremely important one; that it would now represent a consideration of a dispute rather than a situation and that the resolution had teeth in it. He said that he and his colleagues would like to study the resolution and would be in touch with the British concerning it. He observed there were a number of points; for example, the reference to the Security Council Resolution of 1951 would bring the Arab-Israel question into the Suez matter.

[Page 337]

The Secretary said that he had been studying Selwyn Lloyd’s letter and wondered whether Minister Coulson would want a reply in writing. Minister Coulson said that as events were taking place so rapidly it would perhaps not be necessary. The Secretary continued that Selwyn Lloyd’s letter and Minister Coulson’s further remarks, together with the British draft of the proposed Security Council resolution, carried implications regarding use of force in the Suez situation to which the United States would not want to be committed.

The Secretary added that if the activities of the Suez Committee should break down he believed that the Suez question should be considered in the Security Council rather than the General Assembly. He noted that during a discussion with the various Latin American Ambassadors in Washington today he had found a strong feeling among them regarding Suez that it would be quite impossible wholly to by-pass the United Nations in the event of adverse developments.

The Secretary went on to remark that by thus discussing contingencies and plans following a possible failure of the work of the Suez Committee, we did not in any way intend to imply that the Committee would fail or that we believed its normal functions should be cut short.

The Secretary added that if it were necessary for the Security Council to consider the question he would appear for the principal presentation of the United States position and that Ambassador Lodge would present other aspects of the United States position. Minister Coulson said that Selwyn Lloyd would ask the Iranian Foreign Minister to be present at Security Council deliberations.

The Secretary emphasized that study of Selwyn Lloyd’s letter, Minister Coulson’s remarks and the British draft of the proposed Security Council resolution would be made, and that we would be in touch with the British.

Minister Coulson then read one or two additional observations by Selwyn Lloyd. He said that consideration of the question of some initiative in the Security Council was dependent on a clear answer from Nasser. If Nasser should spin out the discussion with the Suez Committee there might be no time to refer the Suez dispute to the Security Council. Minister Coulson also said that the British were only prepared to take the course of reference to the Security Council on the understanding that there would be United States support for that course.

The Secretary replied to these observations that the United States would give its support to British action not as an exercise but as an honest means to bring pressure to bear upon President Nasser. [Page 338] The U.S. would, in other words, give its support in an honest effort peacefully to settle the Suez dispute.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–3056. Drafted by Wilkins. The time of the meeting is from Dulles’ Appointment Book. (Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers)
  2. For Eden’s message to Eisenhower of August 27, see Document 137; for Lloyd’s message to Dulles, see the attachment to Document 147.
  3. Not printed. Tab A is substantively similar to the text of the draft Security Council resolution sent by Lloyd to Dulles on September 7; see Document 184.