168. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Morocco1

63459. Subject: Under Secretary Newsom’s Meeting With Moroccan Ambassador Bengelloun, March 12.

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1. (S) Entire text.

2. Begin summary: In March 12 meeting with Under Secretary Newsom, Moroccan Ambassador, acting on instructions, delivered strong demarche urging rapid delivery of spare parts for Moroccan F–5s. Newsom told him that barring problems with Congress during consultation process which currently underway, he expected to be able to inform Ambassador shortly that U.S. would agree to spare parts delivery. Newsom underlined problem posed for Department in its dealings with Congress on military assistance for Morocco by absence of assurances on equipment use. Bengelloun urged U.S. to look at its relations with Morocco within strategic context. Newsom informed Bengelloun U.S. is ready to sign FY 1979 FMS agreement. End summary.

3. Stating that he had been instructed to make a demarche requesting urgent delivery of F–5 spare parts, Bengelloun commenced discussion with review of Moroccan version of events surrounding possible Hassan-Boumediene summit prior to Boumediene’s death.2 He then accused Algerians of refusing to receive a Moroccan delegation to Boumediene funeral and of subsequently rebuffing Boucetta’s conciliatory overture. He mentioned inter alia that French President Giscard d’Estaing had wanted to mediate the dispute between Morocco and Algeria but that he, like the Moroccans themselves, had been frustrated by Bouteflika’s response to Boucetta, which indicated that the new Algerian regime intends to continue Boumediene’s Saharan policy. Having concluded therefore that no solution would be possible through negotiation, Hassan, the Ambassador said, had sent a special message to the Parliament announcing the formation of a Committee of National Defense. Bengelloun then described Tan Tan attack, emphasizing that it occurred on territory indisputably Moroccan.3 He warned that the situation could become “dramatic” if such attacks continue.

4. Continuing, Bengelloun said his government wants U.S. understanding, especially in cases when congressional intervention is not necessary. He said that on April 20, 1978, his government had signed a 2 million dollar agreement for F–5 and C–130 spare parts. 258,000 dollars had been paid on October 9 and 190,000 dollars on December 18. The Pentagon says that the spare parts are available. Morocco’s need is urgent, and no congressional approval is necessary. There is an imbalance in the air power of Algeria and Morocco. Algeria has enormous military resources, including the latest MiGs. They even are using, in support of the Polisario, Chinook helicopters sold to Libya by the United States.

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5. Newsom responded that he understood that there had been a problem regarding payments under the spare parts contract but that money had been made available. While ordinarily Congress would not need to be notified of this transaction, the Department had had correspondence from the Congress criticizing the fact that F–5s were being used in the Sahara.4 The Department did not want problems with Congress to become more serious. It had taken steps to notify Congress of the spare parts sale and expected to continue the notification process the following day; the process should be completed shortly. If problems arose, the Department would be in touch with the Ambassador. Explaining further, Newsom said that because some consider that there has been a technical violation of the U.S.-Moroccan military assistance agreement, there is a risk that Congress could cut off all arms sales to Morocco. Unfortunately, the U.S. had not been able to obtain from Morocco any assurances regarding use of American equipment which might be helpful in discussing the issue with Congress. Bengelloun interrupted by saying that his government could not understand why the U.S. makes a distinction between what it is doing vis-a-vis Algeria and what it did in Zaire. The enemy is the same, i.e., the Soviets and the Cubans, and the fight is the same.

6. In responding, Newsom explained that in legal terms help given Shaba was justified as assistance to a friendly country to preserve its territorial integrity. This assistance was not justified on the basis of Cuban, Russian or Angolan roles. The Sahara problem, he noted, is regarded by many as a still unresolved territorial question. Returning to the theme of assurances, Newsom said that in their absence the Department was burdened with the task of defending U.S. military assistance to Morocco and must go to the Congress each time it intends to extend assistance. Bengelloun replied if Morocco were to evacuate the Sahara, the territory would briefly become a democratic popular republic and eventually an Algerian province. Twenty million Moroccans refuse to surrender any Saharan territory. The Algerians had created the Polisario after the Sahara had been liberated from the Spanish. Why should there be concern for the self-determination of less than 100,000 Saharans in the Western Sahara and none for the 500,000 Saharans in Algeria? Morocco could not agree to any assurance language because it could not accept any distinction between parts of Morocco. Reminded that some of the proposed assurance formulas were based on the nature of possible conflict rather than territorial distinctions, Bengelloun said this approach also had proved unacceptable in Rabat.

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7. When Newsom said the United States wants to be as helpful as possible in a situation where it cannot accept the incorporation of the Sahara into Morocco, Bengelloun asked if the United States wanted to see Algeria become the most powerful state in the region, dominating Morocco. He characterized U.S. assistance to Yemen as coming a year too late. The U.S. should be looking at the situation in Northwest Africa in a strategic context. Morocco occupies an important position geographically. It has democratic institutions and many other similarities to the United States. Algeria and the U.S. have only an energy relationship in common. There are 20 million Moroccans and 74,000 Saharans. Within a Middle East context, Morocco is helpful to the United States, while Algeria stimulates opposition. When Newsom asked which countries have officially recognized Morocco’s recovery of the Sahara, Bengelloun avoided a direct reply, pointing out instead that no formal recognition had been necessary or accorded by foreign states when Morocco earlier had recovered other portions of its patrimony. All the countries which have recognized the SDAR, he said, are Communist. He reminded Newsom that Hassan suggested to the Secretary that the U.S. adopt the formula worked out between Morocco and the USSR in their fisheries treaty. As described by Bengelloun, this formula states that the treaty applies to all Moroccan territory, and each side is free to determine what territory this encompasses. Newsom commented that this formula would not be very helpful with Congress.

8. In concluding discussion on other items, Newsom informed Bengelloun that the U.S. is ready to sign the FY 1979 FMS loan agreement with Morocco. He also expressed pleasure that the Crown Prince will be visiting the U.S., at which point Bengelloun requested security coverage. Bengelloun mentioned as he parted that the King expects to receive Secretary Kreps during her forthcoming visit to Morocco.5

9. (FYI: In connection with paragraph 5 it will not be possible to inform Bengelloun this week regarding spare parts. Cong. Solarz has called for a closed meeting on the subject on March 19. Congressional Relations people believe result will be positive but that we should wait until then. End FYI).

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790119–0224. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Sent for information to Algiers, Paris, Madrid, and Nouakchott. Drafted by Bishop; cleared in NEA and PM/SAS; approved by Newsom.
  2. Boumediene died on December 27, 1978.
  3. See footnote 7, Document 37.
  4. See Document 235.
  5. See Document 170.