17. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Porter) to Secretary of State Rogers 1


  • US-Libyan Relations: Department Review

Our relations with Libya continue to be severely strained on a variety of issues. In a discussion with Bureau representatives on May 8 it was agreed that a prudent policy was called for on our side lest we play into Qadhafi’s hands by giving him a pretext for confrontations with us and for a break in diplomatic relations which we still believe it is in our interest to preserve at least until we see the nature of the Libyan-Egyptian union scheduled for September 1. If you agree with this general approach, we shall take the actions indicated in the attachment to this memorandum on various policy problems that have recently arisen.

William J. Porter


Paper Prepared in the Office of Northern African Affairs

Washington, undated.

1. Passports in Arabic

After a sudden tightening of the regulation that all passports presented for Libyan visas must be in Arabic, the LARG has now restored the five original categories of exemptions from this requirement. Diplomats and dependents of visa applicants are not included among the exemptions. Because we do not know how the policy will work in practice, we believe we should be prepared to authorize one of our posts on a trial basis to notarize Arabic translations of the basic data in US passports for Americans desiring to enter Libya; simultaneously, we would inform other interested governments of our action. We would not [Page 34] formally notify the Libyans until we found out whether they were admitting Americans possessing this new documentation. If this pilot procedure worked, we would require that Libyans obtain the same translation-authentication service from their government in order to obtain American visas. AF would determine when the pilot procedure should be attempted, based on the degree to which in practice the newly declared exemptions meet the needs of both the official and private community.

2. Lockheed C–130 Maintenance Contract

Lockheed wishes to renew for two years (with an option for a third year) an expired maintenance and training contract it had with the Libyans for the eight C–130’s Libya bought in 1969. The contract is worth about $4,000,000 to the company. We appreciate the company’s need for funds, and we perceive some advantages in maintaining a limited contact with the Libyan Air Force. However, a two year contract might involve the transfer after September 1 of American military technology to a third party (the planned Libyan-Egyptian state) not initially authorized to receive it. Therefore, David Newsom will inform Lockheed that the company may renew the contract provided it contains a clause permitting its suspension when and if Libya merges with Egypt. This would permit the Department to reassess the situation at that time.

3. PNG of Embassy Tripoli Officer

We reviewed the question of whether we should retaliate against the Libyan Embassy here for the LARG’s action in declaring our Political Officer, Charles Marthinsen, PNG. We agreed that it would not be advisable to do so. Retaliation would only prolong a confrontation we would rather leave behind us and could lead the LARG to require that we reduce our Embassy staff below its already austere level (15 now reduced to 13). In reaching this conclusion we had in mind that Qadhafi may be seeking to goad the US to break diplomatic relations before the projected union with Egypt. Because of our remaining interests in Libya we do not believe we should respond to these provocations.

4. Libyan Oil Negotiations

We agreed that discussions between the companies and the LARG over the price and participation issues had reached a sensitive stage and that there is some risk of a breakdown. Consumer government consultations may be required in the near future. In the meantime we are in close touch with the British.

5. Reconnaissance Flights

DOD has tentatively scheduled two reconnaissance flights off Libya in May. Following the March 21 confrontation between one of [Page 35] our C–130s and the Libyans, I asked that the Department be provided with an evaluation of the usefulness of these flights in terms of our intelligence requirements. I have informed the Chairman of the Committee concerned with these flights that we cannot concur in future flights, including those scheduled for May, until we have received and reviewed a report on their intelligence justification. I believe this stance is consistent with the desirability of avoiding unnecessary confrontations with the LARG, particularly since we have clearly demonstrated by flights subsequent to March 21 that we will exercise at will our right to fly in international airspace.

6. Communication with the LARG

I have taken under advisement a suggestion by David Newsom that we explore the feasibility of a special high level contact with the Libyan regime to ascertain whether there is any way in which our differences could either be eased or set aside. I am not certain yet that such a contact would be productive, even if we could arrange it through the assistance of a friendly Arab state, such as Tunisia. However, I have asked AF to continue to re-examine the pros and cons, to endeavor to identify an individual whose acceptability to Qadhafi might enhance the prospects for any such missions, and to submit its further recommendations to me.

  1. Summary: Porter presented Rogers with recommendations for specific actions to address various policy problems and avoid a break in diplomatic relations with Libya.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL Libya-U.S. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Director of North African Affairs James J. Blake on May 10. Rogers approved the recommendations May 11. The recommendations were sent from Eliot to Kissinger under a May 17 covering memorandum.