36. Telegram 38 From the Embassy in Libya to the Department of State1

38. Subject: Libyan Note of Protest Over Violation of Civilian Air Space by Sixth Fleet Aircraft.

1. During afternoon of January 10, MFA contacted Embassy duty officer and asked that Chargé come immediately to MFA. As Chargé was not at home, PolOff returned call, and was asked to come in Chargé’s absence. Najib Shaybani Director of International Affairs at Ministry, delivered following note, in sealed envelope:

2. Begin text of Embassy translation of note: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs presents its compliments to the Embassy of the USA, and asks it to inform its government of the following note: On Jan. 10, 1975 at 0810 hours (local time) American aircraft carrier was located at a distance of 60 miles north of Misuratah, 60 degrees Tripoli latitude 15.5 east, and 34.30 north. A number of aircraft belonging to the carrier in question undertook three flights until they were only 10 miles distant from dry land. The aircraft in question pursued an Algerian civilian passenger aircraft which was passing through the area.

3. The violation of areas reserved for civilian aviation, and the hindrance on its movement, and the threat to its security, and the pursuit of civilian aircraft passing through it (i.e. the area), are all considered complete air piracy. The operations of approaching (i.e. the Algerian aircraft) by themselves are considered an aggressive action which American forces have committed, and for which they bear the responsibility.

4. The Government of the Libyan Arab Republic, which has undertaken on its part several serious and positive initiatives, might have received their counterpart, and like initiatives might have been taken on the part of the United States. If the objective of the above mentioned actions was threatening, we not the sort to accept it or to be cowed by it. If the objective of the above mentioned activities was to prepare for action of another kind, we are completely ready to face it. If the action took place by mistake, then it is incumbent on the Government of the United States to apologize and to determine who made the mistake. In all cases, the Libyan Arab Republic reserves its right to formulate and to take the actions which it deems appropriate in this regard to carry out [Page 107] its duty and its right to protect its land and its air space and its waters. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes this occasion to express to the Embassy of the USA its esteem.

5. While presenting note, which PolOff did not open, Shaybani was at great pains to soften its contents, which he summarized in moderate terms. He then elaborated point that Libya had unilaterally taken several positive steps toward U.S., of which he mentioned only the lifting of the oil embargo and “a decision to buy a Triga III reactor from General Atomic”. Other positive initiatives toward the USG would be taken in the future, Shaybani said. He hoped that the United States and Libya could put aside their differences on the “Palestine question”, and work together in other areas for mutual benefit. This was in interest of both countries. In reply, PolOff said he knew nothing of any aggressive actions by U.S. planes. PolOff said he was sure that any “positive Libyan initiatives would be given careful consideration by the USG”. He reminded Shaybani that Chargé had asked for note on lifting of oil embargo. Shaybani said that American desk officer Shaaban had informed Chargé officially that embargo was lifted, but if it would be useful, he was prepared to ask Minister of Foreign Affairs Al-Huni whether a note could be prepared. The proof that embargo had been lifted was in fact that oil shipments were now actually going to U.S. PolOff said he thought note would be useful. Shaybani was cordial throughout interview, which lasted about 20 minutes, and was conducted in Arabic.

6. Comment: [less than 1 line not declassified] Sixth Fleet was to conduct routine maneuvers today, and that aircraft would observe 50 mile limit which we have unilaterally decided to observe. [less than 1 line not declassified] prior instructions separate flash message to military commands in area advising them of Libyan note. Libyan military aircraft continue to be active over Tripoli.

7. Strongly recommend naval unit off Libyan coast avoid any further operations which tense Libyan military might think are provocative.

  1. Summary: The Embassy informed the Department of a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, protesting an alleged violation of Libyan airspace by U.S. aircraft.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D 750010–1075. Secret; Niact Immediate; Exdis.