294. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Palmer) and the Ambassador in France (Houghton), November 14, 1957, 7 a.m.1

SUBJECT

  • Tunisian Arms Problem

Ambassador Houghton said that he had just come back to the Embassy from seeing Mr. Pineau, who informed him that the French Ambassador at Tunis, Mr. Gorse, had seen Mr. Bourguiba this morning. Mr. Bourguiba had informed Mr. Gorse that he could not refuse the Egyptian arms shipment, as the French had requested, and that he must preserve his freedom of action in this matter.

[Page 758]

Mr. Pineau told Ambassador Houghton that in the light of the foregoing, the French feel unable to deliver arms to Tunisia for the reasons set forth in Mr. Gaillard’s message to the President. The United States and the UK must therefore assume responsibility for our actions. If the United States and the UK do deliver arms to Tunisia, France will make formal protests in Washington and London through normal diplomatic channels.

Ambassador Houghton went on to say that the French have issued a short statement covering what Mr. Pineau said to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Assembly on this subject this morning to the following effect: Mr. Pineau reported that the U.S. and the UK were preparing to deliver arms to Tunisia. He expressed the government’s regret at this action which he characterized as contrary to the concept of Atlantic solidarity which should govern in all parts of the world.

Ambassador Houghton said that he assumed we would do the same thing. I told him that I assumed that we would, but that in any event, I would see that his suggestions in this matter were brought to the Secretary’s attention.

Ambassador Houghton asked that the Secretary also be informed that even though the problem of arms to Tunisia has turned out the way it has, he is glad for the sake of the record that we waited as we did for a new French Government.

Finally, Ambassador Houghton asked that Paris be informed of our decision in this matter and that a copy of any press release on this subject be sent to him as quickly as possible. He said that he planned to instruct the Embassy to refuse to comment at all on this matter but refer all inquiries to Washington.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 772.56/11–1457. Official Use Only. Drafted by Palmer.