263. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, September 14, 1960, Noon1

SUBJECT

  • President Nasser’s Forthcoming Visit

PARTICIPANTS

  • H.E. Dr. Mostafa Kamel, U.A.R. Ambassador
  • NEAG. Lewis Jones
  • NEArmin H. Meyer
  • NEWilliam D. Brewer

Ambassador Kamel said that he welcomed President Nasser’s decision to come to the United Nations session and hoped that the Department was equally gratified. The United Arab Republic enjoyed friendly relations with the United States but there were elements in this country which might seek to disturb the atmosphere surrounding Nasser’s visit. Ambassador Kamel hoped that the US would cooperate fully with UAR security representatives in assuring that maximum security measures were taken to protect the UAR President. Mr. Jones said he understood that Mr. Sami Sharaf, President Nasser’s private [Page 599]secretary, had arrived in New York on September 13 to oversee the security arrangements, and that he would be discussing them with Department security officers in New York later in the day. At present it appeared that more than twenty-three chiefs of state and heads of government would be coming to the UN General Assembly. While the security problems thus created were enormous, the US would of course fully observe its responsibilities to protect such leaders as President Nasser and hoped he would be spared embarrassments.

Ambassador Kamel referred to President Nasser’s great sensitivity and said that he thought a golden opportunity had been provided further to improve US–UAR relations. Mr. Jones commented that, while no final decision had yet been taken, it appeared that all chiefs of state and heads of government, including President Nasser, would be regarded as heads of their respective UN delegations. The special hospitality and courtesies which in these circumstances could be extended to them would necessarily be limited. Dr. Kamel expressed understanding of this principle but noted that he hoped something could be done “behind the scenes” to demonstrate a warm welcome to the UAR President.

Mr. Jones asked whether word had been received regarding President Nasser’s time of arrival. Ambassador Kamel replied negatively, emphasizing that he was making no special requests and had no instructions. Mr. Jones noted that the security problem might be simplified if the time of President Nasser’s arrival were not announced to the press. Ambassador Kamel agreed and said he would immediately send a message to Cairo to this effect.

Mr. Jones recalled his discussions with Ambassador Kamel at the time of the Ben-Gurion visit, particularly Ambassador Kamel’s anxiety lest Mr. Ben-Gurion make statements which would adversely affect US-Arab relations. Mr. Ben-Gurion had been relatively quiet. It was our hope that President Nasser would similarly avoid statements which would embarrass US relations with friendly foreign states. Ambassador Kamel hastened to agree, stating that he would make clear our concern that President Nasser avoid any actions or statements which might prove embarrassing. Mr. Jones said he welcomed the UAR Ambassador’s cooperation and added that he hoped President Nasser’s comments before the UN General Assembly would constitute a constructive contribution to the solution of the problems which so concerned us all.

In response to a question from Mr. Jones, Ambassador Kamel said that he had had no indications of President Nasser’s particular area of interest in coming to the UN General Assembly. Ambassador Kamel felt that, even though President Nasser might like to travel in the US, it would be much better for US officials to take the initiative in making [Page 600]this suggestion. He also felt that it would be helpful if the US position on major world problems could be carefully explained to President Nasser at a very high level.

Mr. Jones observed that events at the UN General Assembly would take place in the world spotlight. Positions assumed and attitudes expressed might have fateful consequences. We desired President Nasser to return to the UAR with the best possible impression of the US. However, in the early days of his visit at least, President Nasser would no doubt focus on the work of the General Assembly. President Eisenhower was planning to speak to the General Assembly but would then return immediately to Washington. In this situation it was difficult to make any firm plans for the more distant future. Mr. Meyer observed that we hoped President Nasser’s comments would reflect a position of bona fide neutrality. Indicating that President Nasser’s decision to come to the UN General Assembly had been motivated in part by his “special position” in the Arab area, Ambassador Kamel replied that the UAR had never been a stooge for anyone but would always speak out on what it believed to be right. Mr. Jones observed that an effort would no doubt be made by the Communists to make all other world leaders look like stooges. Should such an impression become widespread in the case of President Nasser, incalculable harm would be done to US–UAR relations. Ambassador Kamel replied that he would make these points clear with all the emphasis which could be expected from a friend.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 320/9–1460. Confidential. Drafted by Brewer on September 20 and initialed by Jones. A summary of the conversation was transmitted to Cairo later that day. (Telegram 802; ibid., 786B.11/9–1460)

    A separate memorandum of this conversation covered discussion of Kamel’s speech to the Organization of Arab Students on August 29, which Congressman Halpern, in a letter to Herter on September 13, asserted was interference in the U.S. election campaign. (Ibid., 601.86B11/9–1460) The letter was released to the press on the same day. In summarizing this part of the conversation for transmission to the Embassy in Cairo, Jones noted that Kamel appeared uneasy about the effect which the Halpern letter might have on Nasser’s visit, but concluded that the Ambassador’s remarks on August 29 appeared to fall short of actual interference in the political campaign. (Telegram 814 to Cairo, September 15; ibid., 601.86B11/9–1560)