90. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1

1. Briefing of Hostages’ Families: Your appearance today at the meeting with the families of the hostages was greatly appreciated, as I am sure you could tell. We found the families understanding of the difficult circumstances and supportive of our actions. They were very appreciative of the job that Dave Newsom, Hal Saunders and Hodding Carter did in answering their questions. Many of them remarked afterwards that your willingness to spend so much time with them in the afternoon convinced them of your determination to get our people out of Tehran. They particularly appreciated your expression of restraint.2

2. Permanent Residence for the Shah: Following our approach to him yesterday, the South African Ambassador responded this afternoon that Prime Minister Botha wants us to know that he will consider the matter very seriously over the next several days. He will probably [Page 235] want to consult with some of his cabinet colleagues and expects to have a reply for us by the middle of next week. I asked the Ambassador to express our appreciation to the Prime Minister, and urged that the South African government make a positive decision as soon as possible.

We have also gotten a reliable report that General Torrijos is prepared to issue an invitation to the Shah. The Shah had indicated that he preferred not to go to Central America but we have told one of his representatives that he must seriously consider Panama in light of Torrijos’ putative invitation. Torrijos apparently explained that the offer to the Shah was unconditional and that he would be able to provide adequate security. If other alternatives fail, we will push the Panama alternative hard.3

[Omitted here is information unrelated to the hostage crisis.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Box 14. Secret. Carter wrote “Cy, J” in the upper right corner of the memorandum.
  2. Carter, Vance, and other officials met with the families of the hostages at the Department of State on December 7. No official record of the meeting was found, but the press reported the families’ comments and reactions. (Molly Ivins, “Hostages’ Relatives Relieved After Briefing,” New York Times, December 8, 1979, p. 6, and Margot Hornblower, “Families of the 50 Hostages in Iran Converge in Washington,” Washington Post, December 8, 1979, p. A10) After the meeting, Carter addressed employees in the lobby of the State Department. For text of his remarks, see Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book II, p. 2205.
  3. Carter wrote “good” in the left margin. In a December 6 memorandum to Vance, Christopher summarized the status of negotiations for the Shah’s possible refuge in nine locations. Saunders traveled to Austria to discuss the potential consequences of the Shah’s moving there, and Jackson visited South Africa for discussions. Egypt remained willing to take him. Guatemala refused the Shah’s visa request, and Christopher categorized Taiwan as a “non-starter.” Argentina, Tonga, Iceland, and Paraguay refused. (Department of State, Records of the Secretary of State, 1977–1980, Lot 84D241, President’s Breakfasts 9/1/74 thru 12/31/79) On a December 5 memorandum from Vance, who stated that Steve Oxman would be the point of contact with the Shah at Lackland, Carter wrote: “The Shah’s servant should stop having press conferences. Tell the Shah not to announce that he has decided not to go to this or that country. He should keep his mouth shut & find a place to go. J.” (Carter Library, Plains File, Box 14)