150. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Libya1

280. Re your niact telegram 3512 and preceding telegrams on aid to Libya.3 We have had this problem and your views under careful consideration. On specific items previously proposed (such as armored car gift, power plant assistance, $3 million MSA grant and grain relief) decision reached and separate telegram gives you details. On question of providing still further aid we will, within limits available resources and Congressional authorizations give Libyan needs appropriate attention.

However, US cannot place itself in position endeavoring compete with Soviet offers at every turn in road. For US respond as if by reflex action to such pressure would open us to endless blackmail; will eventually lose us real friendship, respect and influence; and is certainly not sound basis for US-Libyan cooperation.

We cannot invite Ben Halim to Washington at this time, since purpose his mission would inevitably be assumed to be acquisition large-scale US aid, with inescapable consequences whether we helped him or not.

We think it is now necessary for you to make clear to both King and Prime Minister exactly how the US views its cooperation with Libya. Unless, therefore, you perceive strong objection you should seek audience with King at once, with Ben Halim present if possible. If latter not feasible, you should arrange see King and Prime Minister independently. Your statement should be along following lines:

US takes its friendship with Libya seriously. Our attitude based on firm belief this fully reciprocated in Libyan attitude toward us. This reflected by policy of US, from birth of Libyan state to present, which has been based upon tenets of supporting sovereignty and independence of Libya, full respect its religion and culture, free association of Libya with West, and welfare of Libyan people. These [Page 427] principles have found expression in many forms including our assistance program.

By way of illustration this position, we have been considering with great care a number of specific problems which we know that Libya faces, and in which we may be able to be of assistance. We confidently expect to give the same kind of attention to other Libyan problems as they may arise. Thus we recognize the urgent need for wheat. To avoid delay, we expect 7.2 thousand metric tons to be on the way to Libya within next few weeks and we will continue review this need. We know needs with respect power plant in Tripoli, and, as an immediate measure, prepared concur use LARC4 funds this purpose. We are also allocating the $3 million for general economic assistance this fiscal year. And, sympathizing with desire of Libya to strengthen its armed forces, we are not only joining with United Kingdom in acquisition mobile equipment but we would be willing to discuss additional military assistance in the near future. We are exploring this problem with UK.5

The United States has been watching pattern efforts Soviet Union undermine independent countries throughout world. Not unexpected, therefore, that once they succeed establishing diplomatic relations Libya they should arrive in large numbers, propose economic assistance, and if rumors correct raise questions of airstrips and other related matters. When one remembers that these steps under auspices of Molotov,6 same person who proposed that Libya be assigned as trust territory to Soviet Union, eventual goals of Soviet Union self-evident.

We cannot, nor would it be our intention, to emulate Soviet Union, either in its irresponsible offers of aid or its deceptive motives. What we have done we would have done irrespective of Soviet presence. As in past, so we expect in future, to assist Libya in its various needs, and our goals will continue to be principles of Libyan independence and Libyan welfare. We have every confidence His Majesty and His Majesty’s Government clearly perceive the implications of the Soviet offers and will not be misled by Soviet blandishments; that, aware of the true Soviet intentions, they will clearly discern the direction in which Libyan interests lie.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 773.5–MSP/1–1956. Secret; Niact. Also sent to Benghazi.
  2. Telegram 351, January 18, reported that Bin Halim had stated that Soviet offers of unlimited economic aid, in the absence of any concrete indication of U.S. “sympathetic consideration,” were attractive to his Council of Ministers and Parliament. Tappin recommended that Bin Halim be invited to Washington so that he could mention it in his January 21 throne speech and thereby diminish criticism. (Ibid., 601.6173/1–1856)
  3. In telegram 291, December 27, 1955, Tappin urgently requested positive consideration of various forms of aid to Libya. (Ibid., 601.6173/12–2755)
  4. A Libyan-American Reconstruction Commission had been set up to help supervise U.S. economic assistance.
  5. British and U.S. officials discussed this matter on January 19. (Memorandum of conversation by Root, January 19; Department of State, WE Files: Lot 58 D 90, Middle East—1954–57)
  6. Soviet Foreign Minister.