Col. Moammar Kadafi, denying involvement in recent terrorist attacks on U.S. targets, warned Wednesday that the Soviet Union “will not stand by with its hands tied” if the United States attacks Libya.
At a news conference after a meeting with senior military officials, Kadafi labeled the United States “a crazy superpower” and called for its expulsion from the United Nations.
Vice President George Bush, employing the same kind of harsh rhetoric, Wednesday termed Kadafi “a mad dog” and said last month’s U.S.-Libyan military encounter in the Mediterranean has cut the Libyan strongman down to size. And President Reagan told a gathering of newspaper editors that Kadafi is “definitely a suspect” in two recent terrorist bombings in West Berlin and in the air over Greece.
Attacks on U.S. Targets
Kadafi, speaking at his heavily fortified headquarters on the outskirts of Tripoli, vowed to attack “American targets, civilian and non-civilian, all over the world” if the United States attacks his country.
He also said he would order terrorist networks around the world to participate in the campaign.
His comments came amid signs that the Reagan Administration might be planning military retaliation against Libya for its alleged involvement in the bombing of a Trans World Airlines jetliner April 2 that killed four Americans and the bombing of a West Berlin discotheque Saturday that killed a U.S. serviceman and a Turkish woman.
Kadafi denied responsibility for both attacks, and he challenged the Reagan Administration to prove its charges.
‘An Old Story’
“This is an old story,” he said. “The world has not heard any evidence or any proof about this old story. It is only an excuse for aggression against an independent state.”
In warning that Libya might attack U.S. targets, Kadafi said, “If there is aggression against our homes and families, it should be clear from now on that the Reagan Administration is responsible, and not us, if American security is threatened in American cities and all over the world.
“We have just finished military preparations in response to the latest American threats against us,” he said. “It is axiomatic that America will be defeated militarily. It is axiomatic that if aggression is staged against us, we shall escalate the violence against American targets, civilian and non-civilian, all over the world.”
Kadafi said he would consider as military targets any country that assisted U.S. forces during a war with Libya. He listed North Atlantic Treaty Organization members Italy and Spain, “the Mediterranean islands” and any Arab port that aided the United States.
Full Military Uniform
The Libyan leader, dressed in a black beret and full military uniform and appearing relaxed and confident, said the Soviets would enter a U.S.-Libyan conflict, “depending on their evaluation of the situation.”
“The Soviet Union will not stand by with its hands tied during a widespread war involving a superpower,” he said. “We are friends of the Soviet Union. We have an agreement for consultation and to coordinate efforts during times of dangerous conflict.”
Kadafi was apparently referring to a Soviet-Libyan cooperation agreement that he signed during a visit to Moscow in October. The military aspects of the treaty have not been made public. Most of Libya’s military hardware comes from Moscow, and there are between 4,000 and 6,000 Soviet Bloc military advisers in Libya.
Challenge at Sea
Last month, the United States challenged Kadafi’s claim that Libyan territorial rights extend 200 miles offshore to include the entire Gulf of Sidra. The United States and most other nations recognize only a 12-mile limit.
When the U.S. 6th Fleet crossed what Kadafi had proclaimed the “line of death” to hold maneuvers in the gulf, Libyan forces fired on them, and the American forces returned fire, striking at least two Libyan patrol boats and an onshore missile installation, U.S. officials said.
Vice President Bush made his comments about Kadafi during a visit aboard the carrier Enterprise, steaming in the Gulf of Oman outside the strategic Persian Gulf.
Last month’s Gulf of Sidra action, he said, was “a great big birthday present” marking the 75th anniversary of U.S. naval aviation.
Questions From Sailors
During a question-and-answer session with sailors, Bush denounced the Libyan strongman. Rejecting any suggestion that the U.S. military action against Libya had bolstered Kadafi’s image in the Arab world, Bush said, “I don’t see how you can be taller when your nose has been bloodied and you’ve shrunk about three feet.”
His tough talk was drowned out by cheers and whistles from hundreds of sailors.
Bush said the U.S. presence in the gulf was intended to emphasize the right of passage through international waters.
“This wasn’t something to provoke this madman over there,” he said. “This was the ninth such crossing demonstrating freedom of navigation, freedom of the sea.”
Bush said the U.S. action might be viewed as provocative in some quarters. “But we’re talking about a mad dog in the sense of Kadafi,” he said.
‘No Matter How Nutty’
Bush also said the United States refused to bow to arbitrary borders set “by any individual no matter how nutty he might be deciding on what his line should be.”
Bush, who is on a four-country trip to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula, flew to the carrier immediately after his arrival in Oman. He came to Oman from a two-night stay in Bahrain.
Reagan, meanwhile, said Wednesday that the United States is “not going to just sit here and hold still” in the wake of renewed terrorist attacks against Americans in Europe.
Speaking to members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, Reagan said Kadafi is “definitely a suspect” in the TWA and West Berlin bombings.
He refused to say what he plans to do, other than continue to gather evidence about the incidents and seek the support of European allies “for action that would be appropriate in view of the greater threats that are being uttered.”
But, Reagan vowed, “We’re not going to just sit here and hold still.”