111. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary’s Meeting with Mohamed Karim Lamrani On the Saharan Situation


  • Morocco
  • Mohamed Karim Lamrani, Special Emissary of the King
  • Abdelhadi Boutaleb, Ambassador to the United States
  • United States
  • The Secretary
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • Winifred S. Weislogel, Country Director, NEA/AFN (Notetaker)
  • Alec Toumayan (French Interpreter)

The Secretary: Welcome.

Mr. Lamrani: I thank you for receiving me, particularly because you are very busy under current circumstances. I am honored to make your acquaintance. His Majesty has instructed me to convey to you his greetings and assurances of his friendship.

The Secretary: I am a great admirer of His Majesty and have profited greatly from my meetings with him.

Mr. Lamrani: His Majesty holds you in high esteem and respects your efforts to maintain peace in the world. We have our normal diplomatic contacts in Rabat and Washington, but given the gravity of the [Page 303] circumstances, His Majesty asked me to deliver the following message. You know about the problem of the Sahara which has evolved over the last several years. There was the Green March, followed by the agreement between Spain, Morocco and Mauritania which received approval in the UN by a vote in the UN General Assembly.

The Secretary: I want you to tell His Majesty for me that, as a student of crisis management, I believe that one of the ways to assure that no one can exercise pressure on you is to remove yourself far from communications. His Majesty did this when he moved to Agadir. He handled the Green March with great skill.

Mr. Lamrani: I will not fail to tell him. He also had much support. All was going along normally; the Spanish withdrawal was proceeding well, and the Moroccan forces were moving in. But the Algerians caused difficulties through the Polisario which is only an Algerian creation. The Algerians also attacked us in the press, radio; accused us of using napalm, killing civilians, and spreading many other lies which were totally unjustified. They organized guerrilla attacks in the Sahara and even in Morocco. They shot down a Moroccan F–5 over Mauritania and intervened with the regular Algerian army. Yesterday the Moroccan army captured more than 100 Algerians. The situation is generalizing. We are not talking now about Mauritanian territory (that is a separate issue), but of the generalization of the conflict directly against Morocco and His Majesty. In this situation we ask what are our means to resist. The Moroccan forces are designed to protect internal security. The Algerians have Soviet arms, planes, missiles, the most modern equipment and in great quantities. We witness the growing encirclement of Morocco. Let me make very clear that concerning the Sahara, Morocco considers the agreement to be final and will accept no compromise or back-tracking. Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal have formed a barrier in the past. The new Algerian offensive has the character of a generalized attack against all these states. The Algerian Government has no intention of accepting the international decisions adopted at the UN. It follows the Soviet line and like many other states of Africa—Mali, Guinea, Chad, Libya, Angola—is falling under Soviet influence. The Soviets appear to enjoy total freedom of action in Angola.

The Secretary: Don’t remind me. It is too painful. You are absolutely right, and I agree with you. I testified three hours on this subject today before Congress.

Mr. Lamrani: I understand the problem confronting the U.S. However, the role the U.S. will play is important, and we are very sensitive to the problem of Angola. However, a foreign power is influencing Algeria and we must react. Spain and France help us a great deal. Spain is sensitive because of the Straits of Gibraltar. Senegal and Mauritania tra[Page 304]ditionally have been favorable to us, and France is helpful. However, in the overall picture, we feel the U.S. is the only country which can defend the world against this menace. What can you do to assure our defense? If we are not defended politically, diplomatically and militarily we will be handed over to the Soviets. That, Mr. Secretary, is the message I have been asked to deliver. It is not a question of months but of days or weeks. Algeria is moving fast and we fear being overcome before we have sufficient means to do anything about it.

The Secretary: That is an excellent summary of the problem. I testified this morning before Congress on Angola. (To Mr. Atherton: We should give His Excellency a copy of it so he realizes I am in agreement with him and not just being polite.) Speaking to you as a friend I say we are going through a difficult period which will be attenuated after the coming elections. We are in a period when many of our Congressmen deny the reality of power but make speeches. They remind me of the sophomores I had in my classes when I was a professor. But there is a reality. I had a Senator today who asked me why we could not tell the Soviets that we would defend Europe and Japan and forget the rest of the world. There are many members of Congress who think that way. But I think the situation is changing and they are beginning to feel a little guilty. Over a period of time we will get the upper hand because reality is more important than rhetoric. I agree with you that the United States must defend the equilibrium of freedom. The United States has a great interest in the independence and sovereignty of Morocco and the preservation of the Monarchy with which we have many links. I think we can say we did not place too many barriers in the way of Morocco in respect to the Sahara.

Mr. Lamrani: We appreciate this and the people of Morocco know what your policy has been.

The Secretary: The problem is what we can do concretely, and you have asked me for nothing concrete. I know you want us to speed up military deliveries and we will have to examine this question in all urgency. We will approach this question positively. We should like to stay diplomatically in closest contact with you and would appreciate it if you would give us as much information as possible about developments. We will do our best to discourage aggressive acts by your neighbors. We want to maintain good relations with both Morocco and Algeria but will not carry this to the point of encouraging aggressive acts. I may take a trip to Africa in March and if so I thought I might stop in Morocco on my way. But I have not yet decided definitely. I am very grateful for your explanation of your country’s views. It would be helpful for all of us if we could gain time because of our domestic situation. Because of the long friendship between our countries we want to be forthcoming but as an old friend of your country and of His Majesty, [Page 305] may I say that we should avoid exceedingly dramatic acts. However, if it is necessary we can take measures. This is just a general view.

Mr. Lamrani: Thank you Mr. Minister for your sentiments and those of the American people toward the Moroccan cause. All that affects Morocco affects Western Europe and in turn the rest of the free world. The best way to assure their future is for Western Europe and the U.S. to join in defending Morocco. You spoke of a Senator who asked you why you could not simply defend Europe and Japan and let the rest of the world go.

The Secretary: The man who said that was an idiot. If the whole world becomes Russian-dominated the economies of the U.S. and of all countries in Western Europe will be affected.

Mr. Lamrani: The problem is that this is a race against the clock. I fear if we wait three or four months an irreversible situation will be created and we will be unable to do anything about it. The situation in the Saharan area is changing quickly. I think there are other ways to intervene. The fact that the Soviets and Algerians know that the U.S. fleet is in the Mediterranean is a brake. However, we do not consider your military aid to be in accordance with our needs. Procedures permit deliveries over a long time but our needs are immediate. We request two actions: (1) that you take a position of firm U.S. support for Morocco and its free neighbors; (2) that you provide material aid—indirectly if direct aid is not possible. You must have the means to do this.

The Secretary: What do you have in mind?

Mr. Lamrani: The U.S. has friends who have military means, a go-between who could provide quick help. I have no specific country in mind but the U.S. has many friends through whom you might provide aid.

The Secretary: You are thinking of European countries?

Amb. Boutaleb: We receive aid from Spain and France but a demonstration of U.S. support is important.

The Secretary: That I understand. I will think up ways to demonstrate our diplomatic interest and our national interest toward Morocco.

Mr. Lamrani: Morocco understands that there is no socialist camp and no imperialist camp. There is only the free world versus the communist world which is not free. Boumediene calls on his friends—Cuba, North Vietnam, the Soviet Union. Likewise Morocco calls on its friends in the free world, such as the U.S. Your diplomatic and political friendship already is evident but now material support is needed. I apologize for being so direct but it is my desire to explain our feelings which leads me to speak frankly.

[Page 306]

The Secretary: I appreciate your frankness and will reflect on our conversation. I will be in touch with His Majesty and give him my views. We will not be indifferent to Morocco’s needs. Let me think over the various possibilities and be in touch with you in a few weeks.

Mr. Lamrani: I should hope that the visit of Your Excellency would take place as soon as possible. We have need of a coup de main right away.

The Secretary: I must do it in the context of my African visit in the second half of March.

Mr. Lamrani: Time is against us. If the trip could be made as a special trip it would focus attention on the Moroccan case and help us from becoming another Angola.

The Secretary: This we will not permit.

Mr. Lamrani: This will reassure the Moroccan people. It is not the same situation as Angola where there is an internal struggle. In Morocco all are united behind the King and they are defending the liberty of their country against an outside threat.

The Secretary: Let me look at my schedule. If I go to Europe for some reason it would be easier to visit Morocco from there. Moroccan hospitality has been so overwhelming that I would not need much encouragement. The problem is that I gain too much weight when I go to Morocco. (To Atherton) Remember the luncheon His Majesty arranged for us during Ramadan when he could not eat.

Mr. Lamrani: It is unprecedented in Islam to eat during this period. It shows we are much less bound by traditions than the other Arab countries.

The Secretary: His Majesty arranged this for me but he was not present during the meal while we ate. His Majesty on another occasion received me at the Palace and I enjoyed a Moroccan meal which we ate with our hands.

Mr. Lamrani: We are a peaceful country—we seek to live in independence and peace.

The Secretary: I appreciate your visit very much. We will be in touch. Will you please give my warm and friendly regards to His Majesty and say that I shall count on seeing him soon, and that he will have our sympathetic support.

Are we announcing this visit? (Mr. Lamrani’s)

Mr. Lamrani: It is a confidential visit.

The Secretary: But it is on my calendar and we will be asked questions. Let’s announce tomorrow at the press briefing that His Majesty sent a special emissary to discuss the Sahara situation. We will seize the occasion to speak of our traditional and close friendship with Morocco.

[Page 307]

Mr. Lamrani: I again express my appreciation for this meeting and will faithfully report our conversation to His Majesty.

  1. Summary: Kissinger and Lamrani discussed Algerian and Soviet involvement in the Spanish Sahara. Lamrani requested military support in addition to U.S. diplomatic efforts. Kissinger agreed to examine options for either direct or indirect assistance to Morocco.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P820117–0422. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Weislogel on January 30; and approved by Covey on February 13. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office.