The U.S. aircraft carrier Coral Sea left Spain and joined the carrier America in the Mediterranean today in case President Reagan decides to order a military strike against Libya, Pentagon sources said.
But the sources, who demanded anonymity, said no orders had been issued for the Coral Sea and the America to reform a battle group.
Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. said today that the fleet is ready to strike at Libya if Reagan orders it.
“Whatever tasks are provided to the Navy, the Navy is ready to do,” Lehman said after a Capitol Hill hearing. “Our fleet is as ready today as it has ever been in history.”
‘Mad Dog’ of Mideast
President Reagan on Wednesday night called Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi the “mad dog of the Middle East” but would not say if Washington would strike at Libya or suspected guerrilla groups because of bombings last week on a TWA jet over Greece and in a West Berlin discotheque.
Five Americans died in the attacks.
Pentagon officials said the 62,000-ton Coral Sea and its 80 aircraft, including 40 F-18 fighter jets and attack and electronic warfare aircraft, left Malaga, Spain, early today and steamed into the Mediterranean.
The 78,500-ton America, carrying F-14 fighter jets and a mix of attack and electronic warfare planes, left Livorno, Italy, a day earlier.
30 Ships in Fleet
The two carriers and their protective battle groups of about 10 ships each are part of a powerful U.S. Navy 6th Fleet armada of 30 ships in the Mediterranean.
Last month, U.S. carrier jets used missiles to destroy two Libyan patrol boats and damage an anti-aircraft missile site when Libyan forces fired rockets at American planes over the Gulf of Sidra, which Kadafi claims as Libyan territory and Washington considers international waters.
NATO leader Lord Carrington today agreed with Reagan that the United States could not accept terrorism without retaliating.
But Carrington, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said Europeans might not support severe U.S. military retaliation even though they would sympathize with some sort of U.S. retaliation.
“I don’t think that the United States can sit back and allow this sort of terrorism that we have seen to go on without taking some sort of retaliatory action,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show.
Tripoli Radio, meanwhile, said today that Reagan had acknowledged that Kadafi had the ability to strike from within the United States in his war with America.
Reporting on Reagan’s news conference, the radio said Reagan “openly admitted last night that Col. Kadafi was leading an Arab Islamic and world revolution.”