The Tunisian government Thursday broke diplomatic relations with Libya, accusing Col. Moammar Kadafi’s regime of pursuing a “permanent policy of aggression and hostility.”
The decision was announced in state-run media just one day after Tunisia charged that Libyan diplomat Mohammed Sallem Belgacem, 31, had used a diplomatic bag to smuggle in letter bombs addressed to Tunisian journalists.
The government set the stage for the decision earlier Thursday by announcing the expulsion of four other Libyan diplomats for alleged involvement in the letter scheme and suspending all flights to and from Libya. It was not immediately known when other diplomats from both nations would return to their capitals.
Subversive Acts Charged
The announcement said Libya has sponsored subversive acts, violated Tunisian airspace and repeatedly threatened force against the Tunis government of 80-year-old President Habib Bourguiba.
The official Libyan news agency charged that Tunisia’s decision was part of a series of anti-Libyan measures aimed at damaging relations.
“The Tunisian regime’s measures . . . indicate that the regime does not have a minimal level of responsibility and behaves in an irrational and childish manner,” it said.
Relations between the two North African nations have been tense since August, when Libya expelled the first of more than 30,000 immigrant Tunisian workers.
“The decision resulted from Libya’s permanent policy of aggression and hostility toward Tunisia aimed at harming its achievements, security and the stability of its institutions,” the official announcement said Thursday.
U.S. Told of Decision
Bourguiba had discussed the situation with U.S. Ambassador Peter Sebastian, and U.S. Embassy officials said Sebastian was told in advance of the plans to sever ties.
The decision appeared to have been sparked by the arrival of letter bombs in Tunis, which the government said had been brought into the country and mailed by Libyan diplomats.
The announcement said the government has “irrefutable proof” that Kadafi’s administration turned its diplomatic missions in Tunisia into “refuges of terrorism, espionage and subversion.”
It said Libyan diplomats were caught “red-handed” sending letter bombs addressed to Tunisian news organizations. At least two of the bombs exploded in the capital, injuring two postal workers.