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Extra info for Cold War in the Desert: Britain, the United States and the Italian Colonies, 1945–52

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Therefore, in public he played down the breakdown of the London Conference. In a broadcast to the The Soviet and American Initiatives, 1945 33 nation on 5 October, Byrnes emphasised that while slow, the negotiations on the peace treaties had not been derailed, and that he remained committed to finding ‘the best intelligent compromise’. He pointed to the many agreements in principle, especially with regard to the Italian treaty. ’64 Although Bevin had been tempted, in his report on the London Conference to the House of Commons, to say that ‘the real reason for the breakdown was our refusal to meet Russian ambitions in the Mediterranean’, he was persuaded by his Private Secretary, Dixon, that this would be a mistake, ‘as we do not want to conduct our diplomacy with Russia through the press and Parliament’.

49 South Africa seemed to be the only Dominion to have given any sustained thought to the disposal of the Italian colonies. The South African government expressed strong disapproval of the US proposals to the British government. Smuts and Heaton-Nicholls, the South African High Commissioner in London, took the Soviet claim for trusteeship of an Italian colony very seriously and thought that the US proposal for collective trusteeship contained insufficient safeguards for vital British interests.

2 The failure of these tactics led Dowling to call upon the State Department to abandon collective trusteeship and to embrace Italian trusteeship (perhaps for a five-year probationary period) as proposed by the French. He saw this as the only solution to which the United States could consent, and the Soviets would accept, without admitting diplomatic defeat. He was also under the impression, as a result of a misleading indication from the British Embassy in Washington, that the British government might be agreeable to Italian trusteeship for all the colonies with the exception of Cyrenaica.

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