331. Letter From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Murphy) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Sprague)1

Dear Mr. Sprague : The Libyan Foreign Minister, Dr. Wahbi al-Buri, during a recent visit to the Department of State2 brought up the question of the annual payment of $4 million which the United States makes to Libya in accordance with the notes exchanged between our two countries on signing the Base Rights Agreement September 9, 1954, and expressed serious concern with the problem posed by the decrease in these payments to $1 million annually after 1960. The 1954 Agreement provides for annual payments of $4 million through fiscal year 1960 and $1 million annually from 1961 through 1971.3 As you know, these payments are made from special funds made available by the Department of the Air Force.

Dr. Buri stressed that Libya attached great importance to these payments since the Libyan public feels they are provided in exchange for something given by Libya and their use is not subject to the procedures involved in the administration of United States aid programs. He made a two-fold request; first, that the payment in fiscal year 1959 be increased above the $4 million figure and second, that this increase be continued through the duration of the Base Rights Agreement instead of dropping to $1 million annually after 1960 as provided in the exchange of notes.

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Although I fully realize the difficulties involved in arranging for an increase in the special funds provided Libya by the Air Force I think that you will agree that it is in our best interests to respond without unreasonable delay and as favorably as we can to the Libyan Foreign Minister’s request rather than risking a Libyan demand for the renegotiation of the presently highly-favorable terms of our Base Rights Agreement, when the annual payments drop to $1 million in 1960. It seems inevitable that the Libyans will refuse to accept a reduction at that time and the ensuing controversy could be very damaging to the rights we now enjoy. On the other hand, their acceptance of an offer which we made now would tend to reaffirm the validity of the Agreements for the period after 1960. At the very least, therefore, I feel we must be prepared to continue the $4 million payment through 1971. It is the intention of the Department of State to attempt to forestall Libyan pressures for an increase above the $4 million figure by seeking Libyan recognition of the fact that U.S. annual programs of economic, technical and military assistance already take into consideration Libyan needs beyond the annual payment directly associated with the Base Rights Agreement. It is highly unlikely that this approach will be successful, however, unless we are in a position to inform Libya that the special payments will continue at the $4 million level.

I would be most appreciative if you could give this matter your urgent attention and let us have your views.4

Sincerely yours,

Robert Murphy 5
  1. Source: Department of State, AF/AFI Files: Lot 62 D 406, Libya. Secret. Drafted on September 8 by Nes and Dayton S. Mak of the Office of Northern African Affairs and cleared with Satterthwaite and in draft with Weiss.
  2. A memorandum of al-Buri’s August 28 conversation with Palmer and Porter is ibid., Central Files, 772.00/8–2858.
  3. For text of the agreement relating to military bases in Libya, with memorandum of understanding, signed at Benghazi on September 9 and entered into force October 30, 1954, see 5 UST 2449. For text of the agreement relating to economic aid, effected by an exchange of notes at Benghazi and entered into force September 9, 1954, see 5 UST 2434.
  4. On November 7, Irwin agreed that a favorable U.S. response would reduce the risk of a Libyan demand for renegotiation of the base agreement, but suggested the United States meet Libya’s request for increased assistance through the Mutual Security Program. (Letter from Irwin to Murphy; Department of State, Central Files, 711.56373/11–758)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.