170. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France 0

733. Initial meetings with Secretary morning and President afternoon August 2 confined largely to Ladgham’s1 emphasizing gravity situation following Bizerte and impact on U.S., West and UN if world sees Tunisia’s plight ignored by West.

US expressed concern, awareness larger issues involved, willingness to examine actively ways in which US influence could be made effective.

In luncheon meeting today with Ball, Stevenson, Cleveland and others present, Secretary said we committed to and fully support Tunisian independence and sovereignty and it is US interest that problem be solved with preservation our friendship with Tunisia, with France, and with preservation friendship of Tunisia and France for each other. Despite high emotions both sides we convinced, as a result our soundings, basic motivations both sides are such that agreement can be reached [Page 256] quickly once initial obstacles to negotiations overcome. Problem thus one of method.

Secretary emphasized high-level initial contacts should not be considered vital. Said US supports position that future of Bizerte must be consistent with sovereignty of Tunisia, and is for Tunisia to decide. He assured Ladgham US willing work to make this come about. Said in Paris he would actively examine ways to find solution.

Ladgham promised GOT would provide assurances re civil order and military communications between French installations as soon as French announced intent to effect troop pull-back and departure significant number recent reinforcements.

Secretary strongly emphasized our view that, now that US prestige directly involved, there be no disruption cease-fire. In return for assumption by US of this role, with time and prestige of Secretary directly involved, we entitled to be given full opportunity have our efforts succeed.

Accepting importance this US undertaking, Ladgham agreed to recommend to President Bourguiba, on his return to Tunis 6 p.m. local time tomorrow, that action leading to emergency General Assembly not be pressed forward for time being. Should President Bourguiba object, we will be immediately informed.

Gov. Stevenson said GOT will be kept informed our findings on day-to-day basis.

FYI. French and British Embassies given background of above in general terms only. End FYI.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 772.00/8-361. Secret; Priority; Noforn. Drafted by McClintic; cleared by Fredericks, Witman, Cleveland, Grant, and Tyler; and approved by Rusk. Also sent to Tunis, Rabat, London, and USUN.
  2. Bahi Ladgham, Tunisian Secretary of State for the Presidency and for National Defense, visited Washington as a special emissary of President Bourguiba. He met with Secretary Rusk and President Kennedy on August 2 and again with the Secretary on August 3. (Department of State, President’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 66 D 149; and ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Converation: Lot 65 D 330)