49. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France0

2224. French Charge Lebel, stating he not acting under direct instructions, lodged strong protest with Dept. October 18 on Governor Williams’ conversations with PAG in Tunis.1 Said he sure GOF would regard meeting and its attendant publicity as most unfortunate, particularly coming at time when Algerians rioting in France.

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Dept. noted protest and then asked Lebel to put matter into perspective in his report to his govt. Said trip to North Africa had been planned many weeks and that it natural for Asst. Sec. in charge of area to visit countries where he had responsibilities. US had taken no initiative to arrange meeting with PAG members. US had, in fact, resisted attempts by others to give special political significance to Williams’ trip to Tunisia insofar as Algerians concerned. Tunisian FonMin had invited Williams to luncheon at which two members PAG present. This had not been “special meeting” but rather social occasion of Tunisian-hosted luncheon. It would have been counter-productive to refuse luncheon invitation. No statements were made to press about luncheon other than to acknowledge it took place. It was press rather than US which created story and attempted give it political significance. Finally, there is no change in US policy which remains one of strong support for De Gaulle in his efforts solve problem and is US hope that renewed French/Algerian talks will be success.

Lebel suggested Dept. attempt put record straight through medium press statement in view fact reports from Tunis imply US policy under modification. Dept. replied Secretary would be holding press conference later in day and question might well be posed.

Lebel then given summary Williams talk with PAG, omitting sections noted earlier cable.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 110.15-WI/10-1861. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Brown, cleared by Witman, and approved by Tyler. Repeated to Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli for Williams, and pouched to Rabat. A memorandum of this conversation is ibid., 751S.00/10-1861.
  2. On October 17, Tunisian Foreign Minister Sadok Mokaddem gave a luncheon in Tunis for Assistant Secretary of State G. Mennen Williams at which Dahlab and Yazid were guests. Williams was on his third official trip to Africa September 29-October 26. Documentation on the trip is ibid., 110.15-WI.
  3. Williams sent a summary of his conversation with Dahlab and Yazid in telegram 566 from Tunis. (Ibid., 751S.00/10-1761) On November 28, Williams submitted a report on his trip to the President. He noted that the two PAG leaders had let him know “in no uncertain terms of their disappointment that the new United States administration had been unwilling to make any public statement not exclusively tied to support of De Gaulle.” They had wanted a U.S. statement expressing respect for the “respectability” of the Algerian nationalist cause. Williams argued that such a statement, phrased to make it clear that the United States believed that legitimate French interests must be protected, was necessary. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Africa)