WASHINGTON (Oct. 2)
The Reagan Administration, while calling for an end to violence in the Middle East, again today said that Israel’s bombing of the Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunisia yesterday was an “understandable” act of self-defense against terrorism.
“While resort to violence is deplorable, it is useful to recall the antecedents to this attack, which included repeated attempts to infiltrate terrorists into Israel and the outrageous murder of three Israeli civilians at Larnaca (Cyprus),” State Department deputy spokesman Charles Redman said. “Against this background, the air strike is understandable as an expression of self-defense.”
Redman said there was no difference in the Administration on this position as some observers suggested after the separate statements yesterday by President Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz.
Reagan, answering questions from reporters during a brief press conference, said any country has the right to retaliate for terrorist attacks “as long as you pick out the people responsible.”
When asked if this is what Israel had done, the President replied, “Well, I’ve always had a faith in their intelligence abilities.”
Shultz’s statement, which came as he attended a luncheon of the Persian Gulf Foreign Ministers in New York, was that “we need to be clear in our opposition to the acts of violence from whatever quarter they come, and without respect to the presumed rationale for them.”
Redman noted that, like Shultz, the official Administration statement yesterday deplored “the rising pattern of violence in the region, including the latest incident of the attack on PLO headquarters in Tunis.”
While noting the justication for the Israeli raid, Redman added, “Our distress is especially acute, however, since one act of violence touches off another and a pattern of escalation is established. Such acts of violence are contrary to our overall objective of a peaceful, stable Middle East and cannot be condoned.”
But Redman added that equally important is that U.S. “opposition to terrorism is well known and unswerving and the international community must be able to defend against such acts. Without such defense, the practitioners of terrorism will move closer to their goal of stopping efforts toward peace in the region. We must not allow this violence to harm or hinder the efforts we and other parties are exerting to bring peace to the Middle East.”
Arab nations have charged U.S. complicity in the Israeli attack. Redman repeated today that the U.S. did not participate in the raid and did not know of it in advance. He said the U.S. has now learned from Israel that American-made F-15s were used in the attack on the PLO headquarters, but he would not comment on whether the Administration would consider this a violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
REAGAN SENDS CONDOLENCES TO BOURGUIBA
Redman said that Reagan sent a personal message of condolences to Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba. At the outset of his remarks today, Redman said “we first want to extend the sincere condolences of the United States government to the government of Tunisia over the loss of life of its citizens in the raid. Our sympathies are with the people of Tunisia.”
But when he was asked if the U.S. wanted to express condolences to the Palestinians who died in the raid, Redman had no comment.