Once…. Tharwat Okasha conveys to the French people Abdel Nasser’s demand to help Egypt in making an atomic bomb
Reviewed by: Wafaa El-houseiny
Translated by: Nayira Salah Eddin
Once…. Tharwat Okasha conveys to the French people Abdel Nasser's demand to help Egypt in making an atomic bomb.
February 23, 2023- 19:27
By/ Said Elshahat
Dr. Tharwat Okasha visited President Jamal Abdel Nasser, in May 1966, to consult him on some matters before traveling to France to attend an emergency session of the Executive Board of UNESCO. This is according to what he mentions in the first part of his memoirs “My Memoirs in Politics and Arts”.
Okasha, at that time, was the head of the National Bank of Egypt, and a member of the executive council of UNESCO at the same time. He mentioned that after finishing his mission, he prepared to go away. However, President Jamal Abdul Nasser asked him to stay saying, “Be patient, there is something more important than what you presented to me that should be researched while you are still in France.” Okasha then asked him about this important matter. “Helping France in producing the atomic bomb” Jamal Abdul Nasser replied.
Okasha used to have close ties in France since he started working in it as Egypt’s military attaché in 1954. He confirms that since the outset of his work in Paris, his main effort was to immediately observe arms and military equipment deals, especially aircraft blackmailed by Israel which is considered to be our main enemy. He admits, “It was a very challenging mission. This is because these deals were being completed secretly by either party. Obtaining information from reliable resources other than the sources of hired agents who continuously approach Arab embassies to provide them with information prepared with certainty in French and Israeli intelligence.”
Okasha discloses his feelings at the time when he heard Jamal Abdul Nasser saying, “I sat down because my legs were not able to carry me.” I asked him “Are you joking, your excellency?”. “I have never been so serious. Israel currently possesses the atomic bomb, and my responsibility towards Egypt obliged me to own deterring means for this arm. Hence, we are trying everywhere, even in China.” He replied. As a result, I promised him to do my best. However, I did not conceal that I doubted the possibility of achieving such a wish. Then, I left him speechlessly, pondering one thing: How could I convey this message? And to whom?
After leaving Jamal Abdul Nasser, Okasha’s immediate priority was to learn more about the atomic bomb. He mentions that he studied the volumes of the French journal “Realities” and that he keeps rereading a published article in it entitled “Countries Permitted to Possess the Atomic Bomb”. He adds, “During our meeting, Jamal Abdul Nasser consulted me to inquire about our needs in detail from Dr. Abdel Maboud Al-Jubaili, President of the Atomic Energy Commission. At that time, I was well acquainted with him since I was a military attaché in France, while he was pursuing his scientific studies in Paris. Consequently, I explained to him the mission the president assigned to me, emphasizing the need for comprehensive knowledge that would help me carry out the mission. In response, he loaned me the book “The Spread of Atomic Arms” published by the British Institute for Strategic Sciences. This book reveals that France lacked the authority to supervise the Israeli Demona reactor that it had established. instead, it shifted to the information that Israel acquired from Western countries.”
Okasha mentions that he asked Al-Jubaili to identify the president’s demand from France scientifically. Consequently, he presented him with four possibilities. The first was the maximum, which is full French aid with the condition that France compensate us for the time lost between its aid to Israel and our aid. The second was a medium program, the third was a minimum, and the fourth, the worst assumption, was to supply us with a reactor for plutonium production, provide us with different nuclear materials, and grant us a license for fuel production. In addition, whatever the projects we are to cooperate on, France has no choice but to supply us with the final drawings, designs, materials, equipment, and necessary devices for the establishment of these projects. Moreover, France should cooperate in all phases of construction, installation, testing, operation, and maintenance. It should also provide us with nuclear materials and spare parts, train Egyptian experts and technicians in similar French facilities, and involve them with French experts in different phases of the project.”
This is how Tharwat Okasha armed himself with the necessary scientific information regarding the “atomic bomb” to be a supporter for him while presenting the issue to the French as Abdul Nasser asked him to do until the scheduled date when he would present his demand. He recalls “On February 23, on that same day, in 1996, I met monsieur “Louis Joxe” the French minister of the State for Administrative Reform at the headquarters of the ministry. After exchanging the traditional compliments, I presented the matter to him.” “I am entrusted with a semi-official message from our president that I wished to inform General De Gaulle personally with. However, because I know your dignified position and your ability to be heard by him, and because I trust your credibility with us that the circumstances proved during the darkest moments, I approached you to report this message on behalf of me” I said.
Okasha then continued presenting his message.