At the Potsdam Conference Churchill had shown considerable interest in the Italian colonies. Stalin had tried to head him off by suggesting that they should be placed under a three-power trusteeship. The thought of the Russians established in North Africa was enough to convince even the Americans that it would be best to leave Tripoli and Somalia in Italian hands. After all, the Italians had ended up fighting on the Allied side. Bevin, the new Labour foreign secretary, was determined that the British should not leave the Middle East. He insisted that the Italian colonies were strategically important and should not fall into the hands of a power inimical to British interests in the area. He therefore argued that a British trusteeship should be established over Somalia and Cyrenaica in spite of Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s objections to any further commitments, to say nothing of American complaints about “the painting of any further red on the map.” The Colonial Office supported Bevin’s position and argued that it was in the best interests of the Somalis that their country should be united.
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