29. Memorandum for the Record1

Algerian Ambassador Guellal came in this afternoon to make a discreet inquiry about the pending PL 480 deal. State was telling him the matter was already over in the White House. I said we just hadn’t gotten to this matter yet, and explained the heavy pressures of White House business in January—all the usual presidential messages at the beginning of the congressional session with momentous Vietnam decisions on top of them. He accepted that in good grace and didn’t press further, though he had apparently been instructed to find out the score.2

When I added that after all we had no special cause to give priority to Algeria these days, that led him into a discussion of Vietnam which I quickly dropped. I explained our current sensitivities and preoccupations, leaving the implication that Algerian public statements have left us without any inclination to take time out from more important matters for “secondary problems.” Guellal turned that into a discussion of how others could help on Vietnam concluding that there was nothing others could do as long as our position and (as a polite afterthought) the other side’s remain the same.

I chided him about our still-delayed Investment Guaranty Agreement. He said it was very complex and the Finance Ministry was studying its implications for relations with French and other foreign companies but expected it to be ready soon. When I jokingly reminded him that he’d been telling me that ever since he arrived, he replied that now at least he gets reports of action.

That concluded the day’s business. To get onto less touchy ground, I asked his view of the Ben Barka case. He felt Hassan had clearly started the whole thing in an effort to broaden his own political base to the left. This worried Oufkir who was far right. Oufkir, as Guellal pictured it, had intended only to bring Ben Barka back to Morocco but had gotten into a fight with him and killed him. (Guellal painted a very black picture of Oufkir.) On the French side, De Gaulle was furious because close advisers hadn’t been candid with him, and Hassan (his fair-haired boy) had bucked him. Guellal hoped Hassan would sack Oufkir. If Hassan chose Oufkir over De Gaulle, Guellal saw the French cutting off aid a la Guinea and Tunisia and tough times ahead for Morocco.

Guellal asked about developments in the Middle East. I told him things were generally quiet, with the exception of two bothersome problems—the [Page 53] Iran-Iraq border squabble and the dragging Yemen settlement. I told him nothing he couldn’t have figured out from the newspapers (though he took it in as if for the first time) and steered clear of the issues we worry about most.

I promised to let him know if I learned anything about P.L. 480. I reminded him with a smile that last July the President had told him to “talk to Komer and Williams” if he had any problems and said I might just tell the President that Guellal had a problem and had talked to me.

3 Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

R.W. Komer
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert W. Komer, Algeria, December 1963–March 1966. Confidential. Prepared by Komer.
  2. The P.L. 480 agreement with Algeria was signed on February 23.