WASHINGTON (Dec. 30)
The Reagan Administration reiterated today its appeal to Israel not to do anything to increase the cycle of violence in the Middle East in the wake of Friday’s terrorist attacks on El Al facilities in the Rome and Vienna airports.
But the Administration stressed that it was not opposed to a military response by Israel. Nor was the United States ruling out its using the “military option” as well as diplomatic and economic pressures in the fight against terrorism.
This policy was summed up by Charles Redman, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, who repeated his statement made last Friday in which the U.S. urged restraint by Israel.
“But at the same time, it has been and remains our firm policy that terrorism cannot go unanswered,” Redman added. “We have always retained the right to respond to terrorist acts in an appropriate measured way, and other victimized states have a similar right.”
However, he said, he could not draw the line between restraint and the proper response. He said each decision has to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
Redman said that while the evidence is still being analyzed about the terrorists, who killed 18 and wounded more than 110 persons in Rome and Vienna, all the indications so far point to the Abu Nidal terrorist group, a faction opposed to the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasir Arafat.
This was the same assessment made by Israel Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin yesterday in his appearnce on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press.” But Rabin noted the recent attacks by the PLO and said no doubt it created a sense of competition between the various groups of Palestinian terrorists, who have to prove that they can do better than the other ones.
Describing Abu Nidal’s terrorist organization, Redman said these are murderers who go out of their way to target civilians and they have attacked and killed many Arabs as well as Israelis, Americans and Europeans.
SEES NO SPECIFIC LIBYA-AIRPORT ATTACKS LINK
Redman said there was no specific link of Libya to the atrocities in Rome and Vienna, but he stressed the close connection of Abu Nidal to Libya. He said that while the U.S. did not know now where Abu Nidal is, he has been in Libya this year and in October gave an interview in which he praised Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi for being of great help to his group.
Redman said Abu Nidal has his operations base in Libya although some of his men are stationed in Syria. He said Qaddafi has supplied the terrorist group with a considerable amount of financing and assistance.
Redman also stressed the statement made Friday by Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, that states which arm and protect terrorists bear responsibility for terrorist acts. While Craxi does not mention Libya specifically, the U.S. up to now has not been pleased by the refusal of West European countries, including Italy, to join the U.S. effort of diplomatic and economic pressure on Libya.
Redman said that the U.S. will continue to try to get other countries to work together in the effort against terrorism. He said that among the steps that can be taken is greater security, more intelligence gathering and sharing, and the use of diplomatic and economic pressure.