Excerpts from the televised news conference with Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger held Monday night:
Question: Was the Soviet Union informed?
Answer: The Soviet Union was told that we had conclusive evidence of Libyan involvement in terrorist activity, including the Berlin bombing. About the time of the military operation, that is as it was taking place, the Soviet charge d'affaires, the senior Soviet in Washington, was called in and told of the operation. He was told why. He was told of our evidence and he was told that this action was directed against Libyan terrorism and was in no way directed against the Soviet Union.
Q: What steps have been taken now in the wake of this attack in order to increase the security around U.S. embassies abroad, especially in the Middle East?
A: All of our embassies are on alert, of course. We have reports and indications, quite substantial evidence, of Libyan efforts to attack--varying degrees of certainity on the evidence--up to 30 of our embassies. So when I say (Col. Moammar) Kadafi's planning is widespread, the evidence is quite clear that it is.
Q: If we have such good intelligence about this, why were we unable to stop that Berlin attack?
A: We knew that they had ordered an attack in Berlin. Berlin is a big place. And we were in the process of trying to track down, I think in Berlin and in other places. Through the intelligence we collected, through the cooperation with other countries and their intelligence, we have been able to abort and stop a number of terrorist acts. In this case, we were not able to identify the particular disco and get people cleaned out in time.
Q: Why did the European Community caution us against retaliating if our evidence is so good?
A: With respect to our allies, we have a variety of opinions and I would have to say--having talked with a great many of them recently--opinions vary within those governments. I think in general, what we see is a shift in the direction of seeing very clearly what Kadafi is, what he is doing and gradually more and more are coming to the conclusion that something needs to be done about it. Today the European Community foreign ministers met. They were not apprised of what we were going to do, although some of those governments were aware of our plans--obviously the British--and they stepped up in effect their attitude of condemnation of Libya. They singled Libya out by name. There is movement, but as you say, they do not yet share our conviction that action of this kind is necessary.
Q: Do you believe that an F-111 was shot down?
A: We don't have any indication of the fact at all. It's simply not accounted for at this time.
Q: What other explanation could there be?
A: Well, there are any one of a number of explanations. It could have radio trouble. It could be going to another base because of the radio trouble. It could have had an internal problem, an internal explosion. But there is no indication that it went down or was a victim of any enemy fire.
Q: Could you give us the number of aircraft involved?
A: There were about 18 F-111s initially that were planned for. There were about 15 A-6s and A-7s and supporting aircraft in addition to that in the form of tankers, the E-2Cs, the fighter cover and various other missions that were flown at the same time. A very considerable number. I don't have the exact number.