CLASH OVER THE MEDITERRANEAN : Soviets Accuse U.S. of ‘State Terrorism, Adventurism’

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Times Staff Writer

In one of the harshest criticisms of U.S. policy in recent months, the Soviet Union on Thursday accused the Reagan Administration of “political adventurism and state terrorism” for having shot down two Libyan warplanes.

Official statements also warned the United States against escalating the conflict with Libya, especially by making any attack on a purported chemical weapons factory at Rabta, 40 miles southwest of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The Soviet Foreign Ministry denied reports that the government of Col. Moammar Kadafi has requested that Soviet warships come to Libya’s assistance, and the ministry would not speculate on how it would greet such a request.


An official said only that the Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean is “in its usual location.”

Washington maintains that the two Libyan aircraft shot down Wednesday were showing hostile intent toward two American warplanes that were operating off the carrier John F. Kennedy in international waters a considerable distance from the Libyan coast.

By their remarks Thursday, the Soviets appeared to be serving notice on Washington that the generally warm Soviet-American climate of recent months would not prevent the Kremlin from raising serious objections to U.S. policy when it touches on issues close to Moscow and its allies. The Kadafi government has had a close relationship with Moscow since Kadafi seized power in 1969, and virtually all of Libya’s military equipment is Soviet-supplied.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov told reporters that his government received with “indignation and regret” the reports of the American clash with the Libyan warplanes.

“Such actions, which are a show of political adventurism and state terrorism, can produce very serious consequences,” Gerasimov said.

“We cannot agree that the United States, which is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, usurps the right to pass sentence on this or that sovereign state, in this case Libya,” he said. “Irrespective of pretexts, the use of force contradicts international law and runs counter to the efforts of the world community to find political solutions to existing conflicts.”


The use of the phrase “state terrorism” seemed particularly pointed since the Reagan Administration has used the same words about the Kadafi regime because of its support for groups such as the Palestinian terrorist organization run by Abu Nidal.

In agreeing to hold a dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization last month, the State Department stressed that PLO leader Yasser Arafat had met one of Washington’s conditions for talks by publicly renouncing terrorism.

Gerasimov said the Soviet Union is in favor of a “calm situation in the southern Mediterranean,” but he refused to be drawn out on what action the Soviets might take if the United States escalates the conflict.

Andrei Vdovin, head of the Libyan department at the Soviet Foreign Ministry, who also took part in the news conference, said the Kremlin has no concrete information suggesting that the United States plans any new action against Kadafi.

“Should such an act take place, it would be a severe blow against the overall political situation in the world,” Vdovin said. “It would complicate the work aimed at ameliorating the situation, and we hope the United States Administration will give serious consideration to that fact.”

The Libyans buy about $600 million worth of weapons from the Soviets each year but have reportedly slipped into arrears on their military debts in recent months because of the falling price of oil. Although Libya is not a Communiststate, its government supports the Soviet Union on many world issues, particularly those of concern to the Third World.


While the Libyans and Soviets enjoy extremely cordial relations, there was no suggestion that the Soviet Union would reverse or even restrict the recent improvements in relations with the United States because of U.S. threats against Libya. The Soviet-American relationship is regarded as a question of strategic policy, while the Libyan question is a regional issue.

Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper, took a relatively restrained line on the confrontation, accusing the United States of a campaign of “blackmail and pressure against sovereign Libya.”

The Soviets have seemed particularly concerned about a possible American air strike on the Libyan chemical plant. Washington contends that the complex is intended to produce chemical weapons.

Earlier Thursday, Lt. Gen. Anatoly Kontsevich, deputy chief of the Soviet Union’s chemical warfare unit, told a news conference in Moscow that he does not believe that Libya has the industrial capability to make sufficient chemical weapons for warfare.

Kontsevich said any country with a sophisticated chemical laboratory could make a few pounds of chemical weapons, “but that is not enough for conducting warfare.”

Kontsevich supported the Libyan view that the plant was designed to produce medicine. The United States has described the facility as one of the largest chemical weapons plants in the Third World, capable of manufacturing both mustard gas and a nerve agent. U.S. officials have also expressed concern that Libya could supply such weapons to terrorists.


At the same news conference, called to discuss a five-day meeting on chemical weapons that begins Saturday in Paris, a Soviet Foreign Ministry official said his government had made a mistake in not agreeing with the United States to ban poison gas 20 years ago.

“I believe the cessation of the production of chemical weapons in the United States was a positive act,” said Nikolai Smedovich, the Foreign Ministry’s top expert on chemical weapons. “The Soviet Union made a mistake not to use that step.”