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Dispute Erupts over Kreisky’s Defense of Qaddafi

An angry dispute developed here over former Chancellor Bruno Kreisky’s defense of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi against charges that he was a supporter of international terrorism.

Kreisky, whose Socialist Party still governs Austria, said in a television interview recorded yesterday in Paris, that he has “plenty of reliable evidence that Qaddafi was not involved in this thing.”

He was referring to the December 27 simultaneous terrorist attacks on Vienna and Rome airports in which 19 persons were killed and over 110 wounded. Qaddafi has been denounced by President Reagan as an abettor of terrorism and the U.S. has imposed economic and legal sanctions against Libya.

Josef Hoechtl, of the conservative opposition Austrian Peoples Party, took strong issue with Kreisky’s remarks. The former Chancellor, he said, “has obviously lost completely political decency and taste.”

Hoechtl, who is his party’s human rights spokesman in the Austrian parliament, said it was outrageous that Kreisky defended “his friend Qaddafi and found words to excuse his policy of terror.” He maintained that the Vienna and Rome attacks, both directed at EI AI passenger facilities at the airports, were proven to have been backed by Qaddafi.

Kreisky conceded that as “an Arab revolutionary leader” Qaddafi “might think differently about terrorists than we Western politicans do. But it is an oversimplification to hold him responsible for everything.” He added that terrorism will continue unless the “basic problem” in the Middle East, the Palestinian question, is resolved.

Kreisky sharply criticized the Reagan Administration’s policy toward Libya. He said Reagan “has used strange terminology” to characterize Qaddafi. Reagan, at a press conference last Tuesday, called the Libyan leader a “barbarian” and a “flake.” Kreisky said the U.S. had no right to set itself up as a moral judge.

Kreisky, as Chancellor three years ago, invited Qaddafi to Vienna. “It is known I do not share with him his many political positions. Still, I think our talks were not useless,” Kreisky said. He added he would be willing to meet with Qaddafi again.

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