137. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

727. Subject: Libyan arms and French policies. Ref: State 004277.2

Summary: Libyan arms sale was probably personal decision by Pompidou, and fits policy he has espoused of strengthening French presence in Mediterranean. Early contract signing motivated probably by three factors—1. Desire to establish forward position with LARG, 2. Hope that the political repercussions of such a contract would die [Page 493] down before Pompidou visit to US, and 3. Expectation that prompt execution of the contract would create an image of more decisive, coherent and coordinated French foreign policy in wake of gunboat affair.3 Only the first of these objectives appears to have been realized. GOF is likely to be reasonably well satisfied with results on Arab-Mediterranean scene but domestic fall-out and possible adverse reaction on Pompidou’s U.S. trip appears more severe than French had anticipated. GOF appreciates USG public posture to date and Pompidou is likely be especially grateful for further evidences of U.S. support in face of criticism deal has provoked in both France and United States. But, from Paris viewpoint it seems unnecessary for USG to go beyond posture already established. Certainly no country has been more sensitive to French initiatives with Libyans than has USG. It is hard to see what more we could obtain by further U.S. support of their position. At the very last nothing further should be done unless we receive a significant quid pro quo. End summary.

[Omitted here is the body of the telegram.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 676, Country Files—Europe, France, Vol. IV. Secret; Exdis.
  2. Telegram 4277 to Paris was not found.
  3. On January 6, 1969, de Gaulle embargoed the delivery of military equipment to Israel. Among the weapons systems affected were five gunboats being prepared for Israel by French dockyards at Cherbourg. Work continued on the ships during the embargo. On the evening of December 24–25, the five ships, now completed, sailed from Cherbourg for Israel. Their departure was discovered by French authorities on December 26. An investigation established that the ships had been purchased by Israel through a Danish intermediary. Two senior French officials were suspended and the senior Israeli military attaché was expelled following the affair.