316. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State 1

1509. Ralph Bunche called on me this morning. He made following points:

As predicted Embtel 1473,2 reception of Hammarskjold by GOL got off to a very poor start. SYG was met at airfield by a relatively junior Foreign Office official in contrast to his reception at other Arab capitals. A 2-hour session yesterday with Mokhaiber was exceedingly painful and gave impression to Hammarskjold and his advisers that Lebanese Government was going out of its way to be difficult. Mokhaiber revealed his ignorance on almost every point of UN procedure and probably caused a smile when he asked Bunche if this was his first visit to Middle East.
Although Mokhaiber made no effort to arrange an interview with Chamoun, at the last minute yesterday afternoon Hammarskjold was informed President would receive him. Although visit started on a note of chill formality, ice was broken when Hammarskjold began to speak in French and at end of a conversation lasting more than an hour SYG and Bunche had impression Chamoun was not only cordial but was sincere in what he was saying. Gist of Chamoun’s views was that US forces should not be withdrawn until danger to Lebanon’s independence had been removed and that in interim after withdrawal there should be some UN presence in Lebanon.

Hammarskjold and Bunche were very favorably impressed by their talk with Chehab last night. General explained his desire for UNOGIL to continue after departure of American troops in order to allay fears of Christian population that they might be subject to Moslem reprisal. Chehab gave Hammarskjold same time table re withdrawal as he has previously discussed with Holloway and me. Chehab this morning confirmed to me that he has asked Hammarskjold to build up UNOGIL in numbers before US withdrawals commence; but that if it were difficult to bring in additional observers quickly he would be satisfied with an announcement to effect observer force would be strengthened.

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Bunche says Hammarskjold agreed to increase UNOGIL personnel, these officers and men to continue as at present unarmed. Hammarskjold will also find no difficulty in maintaining UNOGIL indefinitely in Lebanon but would for planning purposes like to estimate on a target date for terminating their task. In response to Bunche’s question I expressed personal view that for planning purposes January 1, 1959 might be a possible target date.

Hammarskjold has made an agreement with Jordanian Government for a UN “presence” in Amman whose terms of reference would be left deliberately open. Purpose would be to have some representative of SYG who could watch for possible threats to Jordanian integrity but not be regarded at same time as an indicator of internal weakness in Jordanian Government.

It had been agreed with Nasser and Hussein for Hammarskjold to maintain a UN line of communications running from Beirut–Damascus–Amman to assist maintenance of UN one-man “presence” in Amman.

When Hammarskjold mentioned this line of communications to Chamoun and Chehab he got no response; but I told Bunche I was certain General Chehab would pose no objection.

Bunche said Hammarskjold found Nasser in a particularly villainous mood and found him extremely difficult to deal with. Bunche said Hammarskjold had now come to agree with his (Bunche’s) analysis that Nasser will some day “explode” in some nervous paroxysm because he is an inadequate man who realizes his own inadequacies and is trying desperately to prove he is wrong in that analysis.
I asked if Hammarskjold had made any progress with Arab leaders in developing other aspects of GA resolution. He said SYG had not sought to stress them unduly as he was trying to make progress on one or two finite points in order to show some advance in his September 30 report to the GA for this was essential if Assembly were not to be tempted to reopen a violent debate on Middle East. Subsequent negotiations and reports might then be able to show progress on other aspects of GA resolution such as economic development.
Bunche leaves tomorrow for Geneva to close atomic conference but has altered his plans for going to Vienna and will in turn proceed directly to New York to work on increased staffing pattern for UNOGIL. Hammarskjold goes directly to New York to prepare his report for September 30 submission.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 320.5783A/9–1158. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Amman, Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, London, Tel Aviv, and USUN.
  2. In telegram 1473 from Beirut, September 9, McClintock indicated that Hammarskjöld’s arrival in Lebanon that evening came at an unpropitious moment as the outgoing government was bitter against Hammarskjöld personally and UNOGIL generally. (Ibid., 320.5783A/9–958)
  3. The Embassy reported, in telegram 1546 from Beirut, September 13, that Hammarskjöld’s visit was viewed with disappointment by most observers in Lebanon, in contrast to the hopes held by all political factions when the visit was first announced. (Ibid., 320.5783A/9–1358; included in the microfiche supplement)