WASHINGTON (Dec. 16)
The sudden gesture of friendliness towards the United States by Libya’s leader, Muammar Qaddafi, and his attack on Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat are seen here by political analysts as sheer duplicity probably geared to a conference in Washington in February to improve his chances of buying American weapons. His continuing support both for Soviet policy in Iran and PLO ambitions are not considered altered in any significant way except for cover-up purposes.
The New York Times reported after a recent interview with him in Libya that Qaddafi has set aside earlier threats to curtail oil exports to the U.S., saying “we wish to intensify our dialogue with the united States.” He also was reported as saying that Washington had assured him that U.S. policy in the Arab-Israeli situation would shift toward a more neutral posture” if President Carter is re-elected and in this connection he said he thought Carter Will win a second term.
In the interview, Qaddafi accused Arafat of “merchandising the Palestinian code and preparing to sell out the Palestinian people” and that he was “suspending all contributions to the PLO and giving the money to representatives of the 60,000 Palestinians who work in Libya.
The PLO in Beirut has charged Qaddafi closed down its office in Libya following the burning of the American Embassy in Tripoli, but it is believed here that concerted action such as that against the embassy without Qaddafi’s explicit consent could not possibly take place in Libya.
Regarding the interview, a White House source said no dramatic changes were in prospect in U.S. policy but most independent analysts immediately agreed that Qaddafi’s statements were duplicitous and some said irrational. They noted that Qaddafi had called for release of the American hostages in Teheran one day and then allowed the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to be sacked the next day.
LIKELY REASON FOR TURNABOUT
A likely reason for the turnabout, as seen in one quarter here, is that two weeks ago members of the Congress were invited to attend an “Arab-American Dialogue Conference” in Washington that would “bring together some of the most knowledgeable Arabs and Americans.
The dialogue “committee” sponsored its first conference of this kind in Tripoli in October 1978 with about 100 Americans taking part. Among those reportedly attending were former Sen. J. William Fulbright; Najeeb Halaby, former Pan American World Airways president: Seth Tillman, an aide to Fulbright when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; former U.S. Ambassador L. Dean-Brown, president of the Middle East Institute in Washington.
The PLO is seen as split between cooperation with the Soviets in Iran and ousting Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and helping Khomeini stay in power. The pro-Khomeini faction is said to be led by Farouk Koddumi, the PLO’s Political chief, while Arafat is backing the Soviet strategy.
When asked for a summary of developments in Iran and its impact on the Arab-Israeli conflict, one analyst said: “the only man who knows the precise details of developments is Soviet Ambassador Vinogradov in Teheran. Vinogradov was the Soviet envoy in Cairo during Egypt’s buildup for the Yom Kippur War. After that he went to Beirut and civil war followed in Lebanon. Now he is in Iran and that country is erupting. Where ever he goes he leaves war or dismemberment of the state.”
“Why try to assess Qaddafi’s motives, “another analyst remarked: “His day to day statements make no sense. You can’t explain reasonably the kind of thing that goes on in Iran nor what Qaddafi says or does. The one thing that is constant with him and Khomeini and that Kind is their burning hatred at Jews and Israel.”