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January 9, 1956

Meeting at the Villa of Sheikh Salim al-Khoury in 'Aukar

This document was made possible with support from Youmna and Tony Asseily


Meeting at the villa of Sheikh Salim al-Khoury in 'Aukar


At about 4.15 p.m. on Saturday 7/1/1956, a meeting took place between Mr Elwood, the economic counsellor at the American Embassy in Beirut, Mr Michel Saad, an American of Lebanese origin and one of the owners of the Arab Contracting and Engineering Company, and Sheikh Salim al-Khoury, the host. The purpose of the meeting was the development of a plan to exploit uranium ore which exists in eight different locations in Lebanon, with the knowledge of Sheikh Salim al-Khouri and his late brother Nadim al-Khoury’s wife (who had handed her late husband's secrets and business affairs regarding this issue over to her brother-in-law, Sheikh Salim). From time to time, their conversation wandered over to a number of political issues to which I will attend at the end of this report …


The plan they developed was as follows: Mr Elwood, in his capacity as the representative of the United States of America's economic interests in Lebanon, will inform Mr Michel Saad by official letter, about the instructions he received from his government based on their exchange of messages regarding this issue. These instructions say that the United States' Government is fully prepared to send experts and offer the necessary equipment, with the consent of the United Energy Committee, to exploit this ore, and after it is excavated, purchase it from Lebanon at international prices ... The letter would also delegate Mr Saad to negotiate with Sheikh Salim al-Khoury and conclude with him a written agreement, which Mr Elwood would write based on another which would be signed by both the American Government and Mr Saad. Another letter would be addressed to Sheikh Salim al-Khoury to the effect that they are ready to negotiate with him on this matter and, if he wishes, sign an agreement also with him.


At the same time, and in reply to a question by Sheikh Salim al-Khoury during the meeting, Mr Elwood stated that the American Government is fully prepared to make sure that the Lebanese Government would not impede the project, including Mr Camille Chamoun ... and that if necessary, the American Embassy will guarantee, at the start of the project, the cooperation of the Lebanese Government or, if need be have it replaced by another more loyal.


The political conversation

He said: America, in agreement with the other Western nations, has adopted a new resolution forbidding the supply of arms to any Arab country to prevent them from being used against Israel; America is now seeking to establish permanent stability in the Middle East ... He said: as of today, the current cabinet is expected to last one more week… He also said that according to his personal opinion, and the opinion of the majority at the American Embassy in Beirut, Sami al-Solh should be brought to power in order for him to implement the projects that have been suspended and are of benefit to Lebanon…


Sheikh Salim, on his part, said: If America came over here and negotiated separately with every Arab country without including Turkey, its plan would have succeeded, it would have won these countries' friendship and been able to steer them in whichever direction it wants ... As for Lebanon, the Lebanese and especially the Christians still harbour enmity towards Turkey ... and in no way would they be able to agree with it… So if the American Government wants to amend its policies in Lebanon and negotiate with it separately, many political and popular leaders would be ready to conclude agreements with it and pursue pro-American policies; this he guarantees ...


The meeting lasted until 7.15 p.m. after which Mr Elwood left 'Aukar in the company of Mr Saad ... Half an hour later, I left 'Aukar with Sheikh Salim in his car, and we went directly to his home in Furn al-Chubbak where Mr Fouad al-Badaoui, whose work that night with Sheikh Salim I already reported to you, was waiting for him.


Beirut, 9/1/1956

A plan emerges to exploit Lebanese uranium ore, and an American diplomat discusses prospects for the Lebanese government, a recent resolution forbidding army supplies, and other regional issues.


Document Information


Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 13, File 123/13, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford.


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Youmna and Tony Asseily