27. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State1

3812. State 123197.2

Saw Fanfani last night. In reply to first question he said his interlocutor was not Vietnamese and had simply informed him that [Page 61] Hanoi was prepared to send to him a representative if agreeable.3 He has refused any reply saying he must think the matter over. Fanfani said to me this was both because he did not wish to cause any confusion and also because the last thing he wanted to do was to get involved in a floorshow such as took place in late 1965. Yet he would of course be glad to follow up on this if Washington so desired. Contact had taken place last Friday4 morning prior to his meeting with Rostow and me. He had informed us of it and no one else.
My efforts to induce Fanfani to identify to me his interlocutor produced no results other than his vigorous assertion that this had nothing to do with La Pira or his group, none of whom including La Pira he Fanfani had seen for more than a year.5
In reply I said I did not wish to raise this question with Washington; that I thought it better, if he considered this contact potentially productive, that he should on a personal basis seek to elicit more information from his interlocutor. In this fashion both Washington and he himself would remain uncommitted (senza impegno).
Fanfani said he thought he would try that and would ask four questions: (A) the identity of the Hanoi representative; (B) his position official or otherwise; (C) his terms of reference; and (D) how he was to be recognized.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/MARIGOLD. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Marigold. The telegram was received at 7:54 a.m.; there is no indication when it was sent.
  2. Dated January 21. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 3664 from Rome, January 16, Lodge reported on his January 15 discussion with Fanfani on the various peace channels. (Ibid.) Soon thereafter, Fanfani was approached by a North Vietnamese representative interested in exploratory talks. (Telegram 3787 from Rome, January 20; ibid.) In telegram 3678 from Rome, January 17, Lodge reported that he had informed the Pope of the same topic during a January 16 meeting. (Ibid.)
  4. January 20.
  5. Giorgio LaPira was an Italian law professor involved in an abortive peace effort in 1965. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. III, Documents 207, 263, and 271.