73. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, September 21, 19561


  • Inscription of Algerian Item at U.N.


  • M. Alphand, French Ambassador
  • M. Lucet, French Minister
  • The Acting Secretary
  • Mr. Wilcox
  • Mr. Elbrick

The Ambassador said that he wished to discuss tactics with respect to the Algerian problem in the forthcoming session of the General Assembly. He said that the situation will be different from that which obtained last year in that there are now more members of the United Nations and it is quite possible that the majority will vote for inscription of this item on the agenda. The French Government intends to clarify, before the meeting of the General Assembly, its proposals for a solution of the Algerian problem which he expected to be framed in the context of a French “Confederation”. In contrast with last year’s performance, the French Government did not wish to be unprepared this time and hoped to obtain the support of friendly nations to reduce the pressure on France. He referred particularly to the Afro-Asian group which, he understood, is considering a letter to the Secretary-General requesting the inscription of the Algerian item.2 The French Government is hopeful of reducing the number of signatures to this letter and the Ambassador hoped that the U.S. Government would urge four of these countries (Liberia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand) not to sign the letter.3 He said that these four had already shown some hesitancy about signing and he hoped that the U.S. would make representations to the four countries in their respective capitals.

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The Acting Secretary said that we view the French position sympathetically, as the Ambassador was aware, but that we are now giving consideration to the various ways and means by which the Algerian item might be handled and could not at this moment commit ourselves to any particular course of action. He pointed out that any country can request inscription of an item on the General Assembly agenda and that it would be hopeless to try to get all nations to vote against inscription. While the most we could hope for is to prevent some nations from voting for inscription, this also presents problems. He was glad that the Ambassador had raised this issue and was particularly glad to hear that the French Government plans to announce its intentions with respect to Algeria prior to the General Assembly meeting. He hoped that we could capitalize on this fact and that we could avoid being placed entirely on the defensive.

The Ambassador said that he could understand this point of view but he insisted that it would be beneficial also if we could announce our support of the French position “in advance”. He said the fewer countries that sign a petition for inscription the better the French position will be. The French Government is most anxious for U.S. support. Mr. Hoover said that we must know where we are going before we make definite plans, and that the U.S. Government has not yet established a position with respect to the tactics to be employed. The Ambassador asked whether the U.S. would support the French Government on the question of competence if the item is inscribed on the agenda. Mr. Hoover replied that this involves the whole question of tactics which is still under review in the Department. At the appropriate time, of course, we will wish also to explore the matter with the French Government. At this time, we question whether it would be wise to waste ammunition in opposing inscription, in view of the unlikelihood of any success in this effort. The Ambassador said that he did not consider that we would be wasting ammunition in any sense and his Government would be most grateful if the United States, without prejudging the ultimate tactics to be adopted, could use its influence with the four nations in question in order that they and others would understand that the U.S. supports France on this issue. He said that it was very urgent that action be taken since the letter may be dispatched at any moment. The Acting Secretary said that we would study the matter.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 320/9–2156. Secret. Drafted by Elbrick.
  2. On October 25, 15 nations submitted such a request. As a countermove, the French asked that the question of Egyptian military assistance to the Algerian rebels be placed on the Security Council agenda. This followed France’s interception on October 16 of the Athos, which had left Alexandria carrying weapons for the FLN. Though the matter was inscribed, France never requested a Council meeting to deliberate the issue.
  3. Lucet had similarly approached Wilcox on September 14 to request that the United States use its influence to get Liberia, China, and the Asian members of SEATO not to support the inscription move. (Memorandum of conversation by David Bane; Department of State, Central Files, 320/9–1456)