247. Memorandum of a Conversation, British Foreign Office, London, September 21, 1956, 11:30 a.m.1



  • The United States
    • Secretary of State Dulles
    • Ambassador Aldrich
  • The United Kingdom
    • Foreign Secretary Lloyd
    • D. S. Laskey, Economic Relations Department, Foreign Office
[Page 549]


  • Suez—(1) Special Committee; (2) Security Council; (3) SCUA

After a short discussion with regard to the time of the Secretary’s leaving, the Secretary said that in his private conversation with Sir Anthony last night2 the question had been discussed of setting up a very secret working party here to consider continuously economic and political means of weakening and lessening the prestige of the regime of Colonel Nasser. The question was considered as to the make-up of such a committee, whether it should be formed by representatives of the Foreign Office and other branches of the British Government and representatives of the State Department and other branches of the United States Government. No final conclusion was reached, but Mr. Lloyd said that he would take the matter up immediately and Mr. Dulles said that he would also do so as soon as he returned to Washington, to bring about the formation and activities of such a committee.

Mr. Lloyd asked whether it would not be possible to take some action in the Security Council with regard to the Suez situation immediately and suggested that possibly an approach should be made to the Security Council to place the matter on the agenda for actual consideration ten days hence. The Secretary said that he felt strongly that the SCUA should actually be in existence before any move was made in the Security Council. He said that as soon as the governing board of SCUA had met he would be in accord that the matter should be taken to the Security Council at once.

Then Mr. Lloyd queried whether the Secretary did not think it would be possible to get an answer with regard to membership by next Thursday. The Secretary said that he thought that some of the countries would need at least ten days and that he felt that this would not lose any time because it would take at least that period to prepare the documents necessary to submit the matter to the Security Council. He said, however, that as soon as he returned to New York he would take the matter up with the US Delegation at the United Nations to see how soon such documents might be actually prepared and submitted. Mr. Lloyd was apparently convinced by the Secretary’s statement that no time would be lost provided the governing board would meet by a week from next Tuesday.

Mr. Lloyd then raised the question of the payment of Canal dues to SCUA. The Secretary said that it was impossible for the US Government to compel any ship owner to pay the dues to SCUA. All it could do would be to forbid payment of the dues to the Egyptian operators, and he asked Mr. Lloyd what the British could [Page 550] do. It then appeared that Great Britain was in precisely the same position as the US with regard to being able to compel ship owners to pay dues to SCUA, but Mr. Lloyd said he felt certain that it would be possible for the British Government to persuade the ship owners to pay the dues to SCUA.

He then asked whether it was not possible for the Secretary to make a statement today to the effect that the US Government would take such action as it could to bring about payment of the dues by American flag ships to SCUA instead of to the Egyptian Government. The Secretary pointed out that it would be impossible to persuade American ship owners to pay the dues to SCUA if any discrimination between American ships and other ships should result from such payment and that if such discrimination should occur the United States would have to re-examine the situation, but that, assuming no such discrimination would result, he felt sure that by Treasury action the ship owners would be prevented from paying the dues to Egypt.

At the close of the conference Mr. Lloyd pressed very hard for an assurance that a statement to this effect would be made today, and the Secretary finally said that he would make such statement as he could as a matter of law at the meeting this afternoon. Mr. Lloyd expressed great gratification at this statement.

In the midst of this conversation Mr. Henderson interrupted to state that he had just received word from Firoz Khan Noon that Noon had just received instructions from his Prime Minister3 to denounce the formation of SCUA and that Mr. Henderson had been able to persuade Noon to tone down the original statement he was preparing to make at the session this afternoon so that it simply covered the inability of Pakistan to join in the organization.4 Mr. Lloyd and the Secretary then joined in the drafting of a telegram to the British and American Ambassadors in Karachi,5 telling them on an urgent basis to point out to the Prime Minister and the President the catastrophic effects the change in foreign policy of Pakistan would have, as evidenced by the position taken by the Prime Minister in his instructions to Noon.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 782. Top Secret. Drafted by Aldrich on October 3. In his memoirs, Lloyd gives a lengthy account of a conversation with Dulles which, according to Lloyd, took place following the final plenary session on September 21. The schedule and chronology, prepared by the U.S. Delegation for September 21, indicate no other conversation between the two except this one at 11:30 a.m. Lloyd’s account of the conversation differs from the U.S. account printed here. (Suez 1956, A Personal Account (London: Jonathon Cape, 1978), pp. 145–148)
  2. See Document 245.
  3. Husayn Suhrawardy.
  4. A memorandum of this conversation, which took place at noon on September 21, is in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 774.
  5. The telegram to Karachi has not been found in Department of State files. Later that day, Dulles sent to Foreign Minister Noon a letter expressing his concern and asking that Noon define his government’s decision in a way that would allow further study before a definitive decision was announced. (Ibid., Central Files, 974.7301/9–2156)