328. Editorial Note

On January 15, 1958, Secretary of State Dulles received a letter from British Foreign Secretary Lloyd expressing concern about the stability of the Libyan Government and the level of aid to Libya. Although the United Kingdom had initially planned to reduce its aid to Libya from ₤4.25 million to ₤1.25 million, Lloyd had convinced his government to contribute ₤2.25 million, provided the United States assumed responsibility for development and military items in the Libyan budget. He expressed the hope that they could proceed on this basis but he thought that, in any event, the United States and the United Kingdom should coordinate their efforts. (Telegram 4988 to London, January 16; Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204)

Dulles’ January 21 reply informed Lloyd the United States would do its “best to help the Libyans with their economic development and military needs.” He believed the combined U.S.–U.K. aid would meet Libya’s requirements, agreed Libya would dislike this arrangement, and felt it “perfectly proper” for the United Kingdom to tell Libya of U.S. intentions during aid discussions. “It would be misleading however to give the Libyans to understand that the US is able to fill any precise gap created by a reduction in the UK subsidy or that we are in a position to offer assurances concerning assistance beyond this fiscal year.” Dulles added that a British decision to retain ground troops in Libya after 1959, which Lloyd had also mentioned in his letter, “should help in our common problem there and incidentally should be of benefit to the Libyan economy. The situation in Libya, is of course, a matter of considerable concern to us and I agree with you that it could become serious. I believe it is essential that we continue to work [Page 721] together on the general Libyan problem and agree entirely that our plans should be coordinated in dealing with it.” (Telegram 5106 to London, January 21; ibid.)

Lloyd wrote Dulles again on March 24, reiterating his concern about Libyan vulnerability to Egyptian expansion and requesting U.S. assistance on U.K.-Libyan aid negotiations, which were in danger of breaking down unless Libya was convinced it would receive funds to cover its economic and military needs. He thought the next week or two would be decisive, and he hoped the United States could give the Libyans the necessary assurances in that time. (Letter attached to memorandum from Rountree to Dulles, April 9; ibid., Central Files, 773.5–MSP/4–958) The Embassy in London reported Lloyd had initiated this message himself. (Telegram 5654 from London, March 25; ibid., 773.5–MSP/3–2558)

“It appears to me,” Dulles responded on April 10, “that the time has now come when we should sit down with the Libyans, as you have done, and explain to them the full extent to which the United States will be able to assist them in their financial and military problems.” If, as Lloyd had suggested, the United Kingdom would commit itself to providing the Libyan Army with light arms, training, and ₤2.25 million per year for budget support, Dulles would instruct Ambassador Jones to begin negotiations on U.S. aid with the Libyan Government. (Telegram 7248 to London; ibid., 773.5–MSP/4–1058) Lloyd agreed on April 12. (Letter; ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204) Telegram 825 to Tripoli, April 18, instructed Ambassador Jones to begin discussions with Libyan Prime Minister Kubar as soon as possible. (Ibid., Central Files, 773.5–MSP/4–1858)

On April 29, Lloyd wrote Dulles that his own negotiations with Kubar were proving difficult and that he might need to offer Libya more assistance than his April 12 message had indicated. Should this be necessary, he hoped the United States would maintain its previous offer, or the political effect would be lost. (Telegram 7726 to London, April 30; ibid., 773.5–MSP/4–3058) Dulles reaffirmed the U.S. commitment on May 1. (Telegram 7799 to London; ibid., 773.5–MSP/5–158)

Lloyd again noted the difficulty of his conversations with Kubar when he and Dulles met on May 4 in Copenhagen, where they were attending the Ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council. He had agreed to give Libya ₤3.25 million and to provide the Libyan Army with free training and light equipment. He told Dulles that Libya did not want U.S. aid for budgetary reasons. Dulles responded that this was the “best news we had yet heard from anywhere.” (Memorandum of conversation, USDel/MC 3; ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199)

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Documentation on conversations with Libyan officials regarding U.S. aid is ibid., Central File 773.5–MSP.