16. Memorandum of a Conversation With the President, White House, Washington, July 28, 1956, 10 a.m.1
Mr. Hoover referred to the possibility of freezing Egyptian funds in the United States. He thought it would be better to have the old Suez Canal Company sue and freeze the funds, rather than have the United States Government intervene, and the President indicated general agreement.
The President thought it was not too desirable to take action on a tri-partite basis—he thought action should be with all of the [Page 28]maritime powers affected. Also, he had some reservation about a proposal to shift our payment of tolls to the old company offices in the United Kingdom. This would be made to look like a boycott, and would give the Egyptians a basis for interfering with passage through the Canal. Mr. Murphy said the United Kingdom is proposing a UN consortium, when Mr. Hoover referred to Eden’s note in which they seemed to be assuming a termination of movement through the Canal and asking us to rearrange our oil movement patterns.
Secretary Murphy said Egypt has acknowledged that it is bound by the provisions of the 1888 Convention. Mr. Hoover said that Admiral Burke had said that piloting through the Canal is not difficult, as had been earlier reported, and that insurance would not be cancelled if the European pilots were to leave. The President asked about tolls, and Mr. Hoover said the Egyptians are free to raise them if they so decided.
During further discussion the President said he felt it was very clear that the Soviet Union was not going to get into a major war over a question of this kind. Mr. Murphy pointed out that they may, however, give financial, moral and political support in the UN to the Egyptians. In discussion of the legal position, the President said that it seemed to him State was taking the stand that Egypt was within its rights, and that until its operation of the Canal was proven incompetent, unjust, etc. there was nothing to do. Mr. Hoover said he did feel that action must be taken since otherwise the Western position in the Middle East would be cut down.
Later in the discussion Secretary Hoover said he would call Ambassador Hussein in and give him a very strong oral statement regarding the inadmissability of Nasser’s intemperate and inaccurate statements.2
Colonel CE, US Army
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Top Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster on July 30.↩
- At 4:45 p.m., the Department of State issued press release No. 414 which announced that the U.S. objections to Nasser’s remarks had been discussed with Ambassador Hussein. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, August 6, 1956, p. 222; or The Suez Canal Problem, July 26–September 22, 1956, p. 33. No other account of Hoover’s conversation with Hussein has been found in Department of State files. Telegram 190, July 28, transmitted to the Embassy in Cairo the contents of this press release and added: “In giving press foregoing Department Press Office stated: ‘The Egyptian Ambassador informed Mr. Hoover that he had not received the texts of President Nasser’s statements. He further said that he could not accept the protest.’ Embassy instructed make representations along lines Acting Secretary’s statement.” (Department of State, Central Files, 611.74/7–2856)↩