The Soviet Union today accused the United States of threatening world peace by attacking Libya and canceled a planned pre-summit meeting between Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze.
In a strongly worded government statement, the Soviets condemned the attacks by U.S. warplanes as a "criminal action" and said the Reagan "Administration itself has made impossible at this stage the planned meeting on the level of the ministers of foreign affairs of our two countries."
In Washington, the White House said it was "a mistake" for the Soviet Union to call off the meeting. Presidential spokesman Larry Speakes said the Soviet action "shows where they stand on the important issue of international terrorism."
"It also says something about their commitment to work constructively on issues on the U.S.-Soviet agenda, including arms reductions and regional crises," Speakes said.
Shevardnadze was to have visited Washington from May 14-16 to make arrangements for a superpower summit in the United States between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, their second.
Although the Soviet statement did not mention the summit preparations, it said Moscow had warned the United States "that such actions cannot but affect relations between the Soviet Union and the United States."
"Unfortunately, as it is evidenced by the aggressive action against Libya, this warning was not heeded in Washington," said the statement, which was carried by the official press agency Tass.
Reagan said the United States carried out the air raids to retaliate for terrorist actions it traced "conclusively" to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi. (Story on Page 5.)
U.S. officials had sought to reassure the Soviets that the strike was intended as a blow against terrorism. As American jets swooped down on Libya, the senior Soviet diplomat in Washington was told of the action.
"At the time of the bombing, the Soviet charge (d'affaires) was called in and told of the operation," Secretary of State George P. Shultz told a White House briefing Monday night.
By canceling the pre-summit meeting, the Soviets demonstrated their displeasure with the U.S. action against the North African country that has received aid and military supplies from the Soviet Union.
The statement accused the United States of actions that threaten world peace and with "making violence, aggression and belligerent chauvinism a standard of its policy."
It said the Soviet government "condemns the aggressive bandit action" against Libya "and demands an immediate end to it.
"Otherwise, more far-reaching conclusions will have to be drawn in the Soviet Union."
Before announcement that the Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting was off, Gorbachev called the attack a provocative action and a deliberate attempt to aggravate U.S.-Soviet relations.
"This action, which cannot be justified by any arguments, is a link in the chain of the challenging and provocative actions of the United States taken in response to the Soviet Union's peace initiatives," Gorbachev said in a dinner speech for visiting Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson of Sweden.
"They signify a deliberate aggravation of Soviet-American relations," he said.