51. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Egypt1
3223. Now that Lebanese Government has publicly pledged that it will not be party to any attempt to amend constitution2 we believe that central issue in Lebanese crisis, possibility of second term for Chamoun, has been removed and that every effort should be made to facilitate restoration of quiet and order. We think that this might be propitious moment for you to have another conversation with Nasser concerning Lebanese situation, with particular reference to Nasser’s expressed desire to use his influence with opposition leaders in helpful manner (Embtel 3029).3 In order however to minimize to greatest extent possible impression which we would consider highly undesirable, that US negotiating with Nasser a solution of Lebanese crisis, we believe that you should state your initiative is on purely personal basis and not under instruction.
We suggest that you recall to Nasser fact that he said he sincerely wished to be helpful re Lebanon and would be glad attempt use his influence with opposition leaders, and also expressed view that Chamoun should serve his full term. You could say that now GOL has publicly pledged itself not to seek amendment of constitution, central issue in crisis would appear to be out of way and it would be very helpful if Lebanese opposition were to react in constructive manner by taking steps to lessen tensions prevailing in Lebanon. Specifically Nasser might wish use his influence to dissuade opposition from continuing to demand resignation of Chamoun before his term expires. According to Lebanese Constitution presidential elections can be held as early as July 23, and you hope Nasser agrees that political developments in Lebanon should be permitted to transpire according to normal constitutional processes.
You might add that if insurrection in Lebanon continues now that central internal political issue had been removed and especially if insurrection is encouraged and supported from outside it will in your judgment be increasingly difficult for anyone to sustain view that Lebanese crisis is purely internal matter. Would seem likely that more and more observers would come to conclusion that what was being[Page 77]
aimed at was not solution of a domestic problem but the undermining and destruction of Lebanese independence and sovereignty. As Nasser knows US is pledged to assist Lebanon to defend its integrity, and we remain determined to do so.
You should make clear that you have not come to bargain with Nasser but merely to take him up on his statement that he would be glad to see you at any time you had any ideas about Lebanon. You come in the belief that a propitious moment had arrived for constructive action in the interests of restoration of tranquility and order in Lebanon and of strengthening stability of the Middle East. You hope that Nasser will agree and that he will wish to take immediate steps to persuade Lebanese opposition to match step taken by Government.
Nasser probably will refer to his previous argument that amnesty for opposition is prerequisite to settlement. This we could not advocate and you should not even on a personal basis encourage Nasser in this regard. You might say however if this subject comes up, that opposition should have much less concern about possible revenge by Chamoun in view of unlikelihood of second term for President.
With regard to possibility of Chehab as Prime Minister you might, if Nasser raises this, express view on basis information you have received that General appears not interested but that if he were would probably be possible work something out.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/5–2058. Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Rockwell and approved by Rountree. Repeated to Beirut, London, and Paris.↩
- On May 27, Lebanese Prime Minister Solh read a statement over Radio Beirut in which he pledged that the Chamoun government would not introduce an amendment to the constitution to permit reelection of the president to a second consecutive term of office. (Telegram 4272 from Beirut, May 27; ibid., 783A.00/5–2758)↩
- Document 44.↩