18. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy0
Algeria-Morocco. Both sides have cooled down a bit, but military buildup continues and both stick to their basic positions. This is why none of the many mediation efforts have yet succeeded.
Algerians say they want a cease-fire but on basis of Moroccan withdrawal from two disputed Sahara posts they apparently occupied, were kicked out of, and then retook. Algerians also refuse to negotiate border claims. Moroccans want cease-fire on present positions (they may have lost one post yesterday) and insist Algiers agree to negotiate borders.
As to venue, Ben Bella wants OAU to mediate, since he stands on Addis Conference principle that borders inherited from colonial powers should not be changed. Algerians have an impressive case, and even Rusk was impressed by Yazid’s presentation of it yesterday. Nasser has also offered summit meeting, and has stimulated Arab League to propose cease-fire, but Hassan sees both as stacked against him. Hassan prefers mediation by Selassie or Bourguiba.
Meanwhile, we’re trying to condition U Thant to intervene personally if other efforts fail. We fear renewed fighting which could spread all [Page 24] along frontier, which would give Soviets, Nasser, and Cubans their chance to make a big pro-Algerian splash and make it hard for us not to back Moroccans.
We seem to have re-established our bona fides with Algiers (see Porter’s talk with Ben Bella, Algiers 851 attached).1 In fact our problem now is how to field Moroccan pleas for arms, etc. Hassan has gotten himself out on a limb, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. As time passes his position becomes weaker [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified].
Our best bet is still to keep loose, while working behind scenes to get a cease-fire. While Hassan may be unhappy with us (and French), [1 line of source text not declassified].