63. Telegram From the Embassy in Egypt to the Department of State1

3241. Reference: Deptel 33022 and Embtel 3228.3 Haikal called this afternoon to say Nasser would see me at 5:30 and I have just returned from what, on surface at least, was much more satisfactory discussion than when we last met (Embtel 3151).4

After I had repeated substance Deptel as previously transmitted through Haikal, Nasser said wanted repeat two things in hope he would be believed. First was that he does not seek incorporate Lebanon in UAR because believes would be mistake. Second is that he doesn’t want have government in Lebanon subservient UAR. When there had been GOL governments in past headed by persons friendly to Egypt he had made no demands on them. All he wants is government that will not be hostile. When Osseiran came here prior Nasser’s Moscow trip and asked what he wanted, he had replied in this sense.

As regards present situation in Lebanon, it is bad and getting worse. Both sides are continuing to arm and blood calls for blood. It is imperative do something, not because he fears charges being made against UAR. He is confident these can be handled adequately. That angle is secondary. What is important is tragic deterioration in Lebanon itself.

This is why he had discussed possibility of joint approach in our two previous talks because it was only approach which he felt would work and he still felt that way.

Regarding our offer to pass on his ideas to Chamoun, he was frankly dubious since he knew Chamoun disliked him and would probably spurn any of his ideas out of hand. Furthermore, putting forth such ideas unilaterally could lay him open to charge of interfering in domestic politics. Would be much better work jointly. Why not?

I replied not in position explain why idea of joint approach had not appealed to USG other than to say that Nasser’s proposals to that effect had been fully reported and that our present proposal made against that background. Inferentially this dictated joint approach had not found favor in Washington and, by renewing proposal to that effect, we would seem to be going back to just about where we started.

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Nasser thought for a while and then said he had another suggestion. Why didn’t USG make same proposal itself? Then, if GOL responsive, he would do all he could to get opposition to accept it exactly same way he would have done if approach had been joint. Furthermore, he was willing not press for elections, as mentioned in our first talk on Lebanon (Embtel 3029).5 He could see would be difficult in present highly emotional situation. He did feel, however, that Chehab only answer to question of replacement Solh and he also thought he would be logical man for presidency since he seems to be one person who is generally trusted. Nasser said knew Chehab pro-West and not pro-Egyptian and also that would not be in conformity normal pattern have Christian as Prime Minister. But these things were not important. What is essential is to look to future Lebanese security and that means now having Prime Minister whom opposition trust and later President on whom there should be general agreement in advance. If this were done and choice were Chehab, prospects would be much more promising.

Nasser seemed accept without question our reluctance to guarantee amnesty but willingness use influence to maintain amnesty if GOL accepted.

Nasser also said wished make plain that he does not have close contacts with opposition as seems be generally assumed. In fact he is not exactly sure what happening or what opposition want. As consequence, ideas which he suggested had not been discussed with opposition and could not be sure they would accept. However, he would do best through means at his disposal, including UAR Embassy Beirut.

My impression of conversation was that, despite negative character of our suggestions, Nasser was at least gratified hear that his proposals had been considered and, as consequence, seemed to be in mood to make serious effort toward solution of Lebanese crisis. What his basic thinking may be still remains difficult fathom but, for tactical or other reason, he gave definite impression this afternoon of wanting see Lebanese situation cleared up under a Christian president and I feel we would be well advised to seek means to hold him to his word, which means, of course, that reciprocating gesture by US would now be in order so as keep ball in play.

Incidentally, at end of conversation I asked Nasser frank question why, if he had no designs on Lebanon, he had for sometime past long antedating present crisis, given GOL such rough time. He said answer was simple. It was because GOL had worked actively against Egypt in other countries of area, mentioning specifically Jordan and Saudi Arabia, [Page 103]and because GOL had allowed Lebanon to become haven for plotters against Syria and Egypt formerly and now UAR. If this type of hostility would cease, there would be no problem.

Naturally, this was not whole story but I did not think it would be profitable to vitiate generally constructive tone of conversation by becoming involved in prolonged debate on this many-faceted question.

In conclusion, wish renew suggestion that reasonably prompt reaction on our part to foregoing could be helpful.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–758. Top Secret; Priority. Repeated to Beirut, London, Paris, and USUN.
  2. Document 59.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 59.
  4. Document 55.
  5. Document 44.
  6. Hare supplemented this telegram on June 8 with telegram 3244 from Cairo, in which he concluded:

    “Sum and substance of foregoing would seem to be that, for reasons not entirely clear and probably rather complex, Nasser would like to liquidate his (disclaimed) commitment in Lebanon and bring crisis to end. To extent that he has become involved in Lebanon, I do not feel my heart wrung by compassion to bail him out when things may not have gone as foreseen. However, real question is security of Lebanon, not giving Nasser object lesson, however desirable that might be, and, viewed in that light, I would suggest that we give serious consideration to his proposals in reftel and indicate our reaction as soon as possible.” (Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–858)

    In telegram 4548 from Beirut, June 9, McClintock supported Hare’s suggestion that Nasser’s proposals should be given serious consideration. He felt that it would not be impossible to negotiate an agreement with the Chamoun government on the amnesty issue and on the proposal that Chehab should be installed as Prime Minister. (Ibid., 783A.00/6–958) Both telegrams are included in the microfiche supplement.