Soviets Assert Right to Use Airspace, Waters Off Libya : Moscow Warns U.S. It Won’t Be Intimidated
The Soviet Union, sending a message to Washington that the Kremlin will not be intimidated by the U.S. raid on Libya, today asserted its right to passage in international waters and airspace around Libya.
Ambassadors from all foreign embassies were called to the Foreign Ministry late Wednesday and told that “the Soviet Union has the full right to use Mediterranean waters for the movement of military ships,” spokesman Vladimir Lomeiko said.
“We mean the waters as well as the airspace over these waters,” Lomeiko told a news conference. “The Soviet Union assumes that the U.S. side will take into account this fact in future actions.”
Western diplomats said there was no indication whether the assertions were a prelude to major Soviet maneuvers or an increased Soviet naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea.
“It’s a bit difficult to interpret. We asked for further clarification but did not receive it,” said one diplomat who refused to be identified.
“They could want to put on record that they would not be intimidated by U.S. actions,” he said. “On the other hand, it could presage some action--possibly the Soviets are thinking of putting their fleet between the Libyan and American fleets.” (The U.S. 6th Fleet operates in the Mediterranean.)
The assertion of Soviet rights of passage coincided with publication of a letter from Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Kadafi promising that Moscow would meet commitments to strengthen Libyan defenses. (Story on Page 22.)
Diplomats Get Letter
Lomeiko said this letter and a Soviet government statement issued Tuesday were read to diplomats in the Foreign Ministry briefings.
Western diplomats said they believe the Kremlin would not involve itself in a military conflict over Libya.
At the news conference, Lomeiko again denied U.S. allegations that Libya was behind the terrorist bombing of a West Berlin disco April 5 that killed an American soldier and a Turkish woman and sparked the U.S. retaliatory raid.
Lomeiko said the Soviet Union had no prior knowledge of the bombing.
“We did not have any information about this terrorist act, but if we had this information we would have immediately shared it with the American side,” he said.