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

229. Embtel 245.2 Position Department has taken re North African situation has been reached on basis careful consideration overall US foreign policy objectives involved. Our immediate objective is restoration peace and stability in area in which we maintain important interests. In pursuance this objective we have expressed concern to French Government over developments in North Africa resulting from plane incident. At same time we have urged moderation in both Morocco and Tunisia. This position does not imply any US responsibility for or sympathy with French action in intercepting plane and capturing Algerian leaders. Nor does it identify us with Moroccan and Tunisian demands French release Algerian leaders. Our position has been based solely on overall considerations US interests in countries affected.

In light foregoing we cannot agree public statement you suggest.

Foregoing is FYI only.

Embtel 242.3 You should reply orally to Libyan note along following lines:

“Department understands concern Libyan Government over situation resulting from plane incident and interception Algerian leaders and is also concerned re tension in North Africa. US of course has no legal right demand release Algerians. We have however emphasized to French Government our serious concern over recent developments North Africa. We are continuing make every appropriate effort to encourage earliest restoration peace and stability in area.”

Department repeating Deptels 14594 and 14945 to Paris and [Page 248] Paris’ 19326 which will provide further background information this question.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/10–2656. Secret; Priority.
  2. In telegram 245, October 26, Ambassador Tappin commented as follows on the French seizure of Algerian leaders: “had I deliberately sat down and sought to do so, I could not have dreamed up act more prejudicial to Western-Arab relations than this one.” He suggested a statement deploring France’s action as detrimental to peace. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 242, October 24, transmitted the text of a Libyan note calling attention to the potential consequences of the French action and asking the United States to intervene. (Ibid., 751S.00/10–2456) Documentation on representations to the U.S. Government to intercede on behalf of the Algerian leaders is ibid., Central Files 751S.00.
  4. Telegram 1459, October 23, expressed the Department’s concern about the French action and its probable detrimental impact on Western interests throughout North Africa. The Embassy was requested to determine who was responsible for the action. (Ibid., 751S.00/10–2256)
  5. Telegram 1494, October 25, instructed Dillon to express U.S. concern at the highest appropriate level. (Ibid., 751S.00/10–2556)
  6. Telegram 1932, October 24, reported on Dillon’s conversation with Jean Basdevant, the top permanent official handling Moroccan and Tunisian affairs, who undertook to inform Pineau and Joxe of the U.S. concern. Mollet, however, was not prepared to free the captives who were wanted for “criminal” acts. (Ibid., 751s.00/10–2456)