President Reagan gave the go-ahead some time in the middle of last week for Monday night's bombings in Libya, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said today.
Speakes also said the process that led to the decision was set in motion by Reagan shortly after the April 4 attack on a West Berlin nightclub that killed an American soldier and a Turkish woman.
"Once that bombing occurred . . . we were able to zero in on it and get some feeling for what we wanted to do," he said. "We had a direct link (to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi). At the same time we were seeing a rapidly escalating spate of terrorist activities planned worldwide against Americans.
"So the President felt it was time to take action. . . . Is the military option one he wishes to exercise? Sometime mid-week last week he indicated yes, he would like to exercise the option. . . .
"He gave the execute order when he said, 'Use the military option.' " Speakes added, however, that Reagan "had the option to call off the mission up to 6:59 last night." The attack occurred at 7 p.m. EST--2 a.m. in Libya.
Throughout last week, Speakes said, Reagan held brief meetings with officials of the State and Defense departments, national security agencies and the military.
"They kept showing him targets, kept showing him ideas; he kept making various decisions affecting this to go into place," he said.
"When they came to him and said, 'Is Monday night all right?' he said, 'Fine, Monday night is OK.' "
He said that when presidential envoy Vernon Walters was sent to confer with European allies over the weekend, the European leaders "were told the President had decided on a military option."