France Ousts 2 Libyans; Link to Terrorism Cited
The French government expelled two Libyan diplomats Saturday, saying that they had been in contact with terrorists who were likely to attack American targets in France.
The Interior Ministry also said that a Tunisian and an Algerian were expelled last week as part of the same anti-terrorist intelligence operation involving the Libyans. One report said U.S. embassy or consular targets were involved.
The Libyans were ousted from France “after having been found to be in contact with individuals liable to commit attacks against American interests in France,” an Interior Ministry spokesman said. Both flew Saturday to Tripoli.
Both of the Libyans, who were not named, had diplomatic status at the Libyan People’s Bureau, or embassy, in Paris.
A man reached by telephone at the People’s Bureau formally denied that any Libyan officials had been expelled.
In the earlier cases, the Interior Ministry spokesman said, Fethi Sharif of Algeria and Rouini Hedi ben Ali of Tunisia were expelled Wednesday. Press reports said both men were expelled for “participating in a logistics and support group” formed to carry out anti-American attacks.
Each man was deported to his home country, the Interior Ministry spokesman said. U.S. Embassy officials here declined immediate comment.
French commentators noted that the expulsions came after the new conservative government of Premier Jacques Chirac agreed to discuss international terrorism during the forthcoming summit meeting of seven major industrial nations to be held in Tokyo next month.
Socialist President Francois Mitterrand, whose seven-year term ends in 1988, has usually insisted that summit meetings be confined to economic matters though his previous Socialist premiers have ousted foreign espionage agents.
History of Violence
France has suffered a rash of terrorist bombings, most believed to be connected to Middle East animosities, over the last few years. Some acts have had a specifically anti-Israel or anti-Jewish character while others have targeted North African Arab immigrants.
In addition, at least four French hostages are believed held by two groups of pro-Iranian extremists in Lebanon.
For more than 10 years, the French government was believed to have arranged secret deals with terrorist organizations and their radical government backers to allow their free movement through France as long as French territory was not used for terrorist operations.
If those deals indeed existed, French television commentators said Saturday, they have either dissolved or been broken by terrorists accountable to no one.