European Ministers Postpone Work on Anti-Terrorist Steps
The deeply divided foreign ministers of the European Communities, meeting in emergency session in the wake of the U.S. bombing of Libya, called Thursday on both sides to stop escalating the violence but held back until at least next week from taking the kind of anti-terrorist measures that might satisfy the United States.
Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek, who presided over the session, said that the 12 ministers decided they would consider “concrete measures” against international terrorism at their regularly scheduled meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. He said they need the weekend to study a report on the subject.
In a separate news conference, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead welcomed the possibility of stronger European action against terrorism in the future and tried to play down the recent discord between the U.S. and most European governments over the American raid.
‘Back on Track’
“After a few days of misunderstanding,” Whitehead said, “I think we are back on the track where we all know we have to work together on this problem.”
Asked by French journalists about the French government’s refusal to allow U.S. warplanes based in Britain to fly over its airspace en route to Libya, Whitehead replied: “We were disappointed. But that was yesterday’s disappointment, and we have put it behind us.”
In Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament condemned the U.S. air raids as “a flagrant violation of international law.” In an unexpected victory for the center-left, the Parliament approved 154-148 an emergency resolution that said the attacks were a danger to international security and peace.
The final resolution, supported by environmentalists, Socialists and Communists, condemned the raids as “a dangerous escalation of the use of force in the Mediterranean region.” It included an amendment saying the attack was “an inappropriate and unsuitable means of stemming the tide of terrorism and punishing the guilty parties.”
Meeting in Paris
The European Communities ministers chose Paris as the site for their second emergency meeting of the week because they had to assemble there anyway for the annual meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Whitehead also was attending the organization’s meeting.
Many Western European foreign ministers, disturbed by the fact that the U.S. raid on Tripoli and Benghazi came only hours after the ministers had issued a call for restraint at their first emergency meeting in The Hague last Monday, apparently feel that they must produce something substantial next week to have influence in Washington on future issues involving terrorism.
“But the problem,” a British government source told journalists, “is that while some governments feel that their voices should be heard in Washington, they are not willing to equip that voice with the kind of measures that would make that voice credible.”
Greece Condemns Raid
Although British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was the only European Communities leader to support the American raid, Thursday’s closed meeting of foreign ministers evidently was not brimming with recriminations against the United States. Only the Greek and Spanish foreign ministers reportedly took time at the 90-minute meeting to condemn the raid.
The ministers, said the British source, were “concerned not to let (Libyan leader Moammar) Kadafi do what the Soviet Union has so far failed to do--split the United States and its Allies.”
At a news conference after the session, Van Den Broek said that the ministers were trying “to de-escalate the situation, avoiding future military action, avoiding a cycle of violence.”
The Dutch foreign minister said that his fellow ministers, believing that “an international endeavor” was needed against terrorism, planned to start contacts with the United States, the Soviet Union, Arab nations, Eastern Europe and the nonaligned countries. In line with this, Van Den Broek met later in the day with Whitehead.
“We cannot take the phenomenon of international terrorism seriously enough,” Van Den Broek said at his news conference. “State-supported terrorism is absolutely intolerable.”
The report on terrorism, which has been prepared by a committee of the communities’ civil servants, apparently recommends that the ministers take firmer action next week than they did in The Hague when they announced that the Common Market would limit the number of Libyan diplomats assigned to embassies.
The foreign ministers may have difficulty agreeing on stronger measures. The British source, for example, said that “the logical conclusion to draw from the report is the need for the closing of the People’s Bureaus,” as Libya calls its embassies. The British government, which closed the London embassy after a British policewoman was killed by a shot from the Libyan embassy two years ago, and the Dutch government have advocated a general closing of these embassies. This also has been recommended by the United States.
France Rejects Bid
But a French External Relations Ministry spokesman told reporters Thursday that France sees no point in closing the offices. Even if they were closed, he said, Libyan diplomats would still live in Europe as representatives to various international organizations such as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.
Asked what further measures were desired by the United States, Whitehead replied that one was at the top of his list: a reduction in European purchases of Libyan oil. The European Communities, however, which trades heavily with Libya, has strongly resisted past proposals to impose any kind of economic sanctions on Libya.