219. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1
621. From Murphy for Secretary. I am continuing series of conversations with leading personalities pro-government, middle-of-the-road and opposition. Will report separately substance of these talks. Overall consistent thread from all shades of opinion is however agreement on need for prompt presidential elections. Second general overall impression is that US landing here is generally welcome by Lebanese including some Moslem elements.
I saw Chamoun this evening with McClintock. He asked us as a matter of utmost priority to arrange that Admiral Holloway push Lebanese Commander General Chehab into immediate military action to clean out Beirut and to reject threat of other rebel forces in south who are approaching Damascus highway and may possibly present a threat to Beirut airport. Chamoun estimated their number at 1000.
President said from basis of his political consultations we could regard it “as settled” that presidential elections would be held before end of this month. He said Osseiran, Speaker of Parliament, had called on him today and had offered to do his bidding. (A separate Embtel2 indicates Osseiran has on his own decided to cancel July 24 meeting of Parliament and to convoke Chamber for July 31. We are this evening informally passing word to Speaker indicating our hope that elections can in fact take place before that date.)
Chamoun said his list of possible candidates was narrowing. He mentioned tonight only Jawas Boulos and Alfred Naccache. Chamoun said he would be very happy to have our recommendations as to where choice should fall. We have consistently indicated it would be wise for US to refrain from sponsoring any candidate as this would lead to charges an American stooge were being elected while US forces were landed in Beirut. However Chamoun says we talk to him as a friend and he would like to know our opinion. McClintock advises that as between Boulos and Naccache, who is weak and verged on the valetudinarian, Boulos would be the most acceptable candidate. I have not however as yet made up my mind whether to intimate any preference even to Chamoun.