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384. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Summary of the President’s Call to President Zia

President Carter thanked Zia for effective action Pakistan had taken in saving American lives. President Zia said that he was only doing his duty; as he had told Secretary Vance and Ambassador Hummel,2 he was aware that relief had been slow in coming but his main objective had been avoidance of bloodshed.

President Carter asked if it was safe in the streets and for Americans in their homes. President Zia responded that everything was “nice and fine.” He could guarantee all Americans were safe including one missing family who were probably in hiding.

President Carter said he hoped that Zia would make clear to the people of Pakistan that the U.S. had had no hand in the events in Mecca. Zia replied that he had just made this point in his radio-TV address to the nation. Zia went on to say that BBC3 and Indian Radio4 had created the conditions for this trouble through their malicious reporting.

[Page 868]President Carter said we will contact India about this directly. He reiterated his own appreciation and that of the American people and said that he looked forward to our continued close relationship.

Zia concluded by saying that Pakistanis are not fanatics despite their closeness to Islam and it is the government’s duty to protect foreign embassies especially those of good friends such as the United States. He expressed his great sorrow and that of the Pakistani people over the loss of the life of our marine guard.

President Carter assured Zia that his expression of sympathy would be made known to the American people.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 37, Memcons: President: 10–12/79. Unclassified. Carter spoke to Zia by telephone from 10:39 to 10:44 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. No other record of these communications was found.
  3. Telegram 23186 from London, November 21, transmitted the text of the BBC’s November 21 broadcast that announced the attack on the Grand Mosque. The BBC’s announcement, according to the telegram, reads: “Communications between Saudi Arabia and the outside world have been cut amid reports of a disturbance in the holy city of Mecca. The reports of the incidents have so far all come from Washington. A State Department spokesman said that a mosque in Mecca had apparently been taken over by a group of people, but their identity was not certain. One report said that armed men were holding hostages in the mosque. The State Department also confirmed reports from Bahrain that communications with Saudi Arabia had been cut for some hours. Muslims throughout the world have been celebrating the first day of the fifteenth century of the Islamic calendar.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790537–0704)
  4. In telegram 21360 from New Delhi, November 22, the Embassy reported its investigation of the allegation that a remark made by an All India Radio commentator during a November 21 cricket match in Bangalore contributed to the attack on the Embassy in Islamabad. In response to an Embassy inquiry, the All India Radio manager stated: “No remarks or comments of any kind were made during cricket match broadcast which could conceivably have had this effect.” Moreover, “In response to ICA query, AIR executives state AIR never carried allegations that Mecca mosque was seized by Americans or other non-Muslims.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790537–0704)