US Officials Say Sole Target Was Libya, Not Soviets
WASHINGTON (AP) _ As U.S. warplanes attacked Libya, U.S. officials told the senior Soviet diplomat in Washington that America was aiming its blows at terrorism and not at the Kremlin.
″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.
Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin returned to Moscow last week, and a new ambassador has not yet been appointed.
The Soviet official ″was told of our evidence, and he was told this action was directed against terrorists and was in no way directed against the Soviet Union,″ Shultz said.
Shultz declined to tell reporters how the Soviet diplomat responded, saying he would leave that to the Kremlin.
The Soviet Union has repeatedly refused to sign a defense pact with Khadafy, although State Department officials estimate that the Kremlin has sold Libya $10 billion to $15 billion worth of arms, and stationed up to 5,000 military advisers there.
″They want to avoid a major U.S.-Soviet confrontation over Libya,″ said one State Department official, who asked not to be further identified. ″The Kremlin relationship with Khadafy has always been strained.″
The official Soviet news agency Tass waited two hours after the U.S. announcement of the raid to carry its first report, a two-paragraph dispatch which said that Tripoli ″has been subjected to an air attack. Explosions are heard in the city.″
″The White House has confirmed that the United States has dealt a series of air strikes against Libya,″ Tass reported.
Although Khadafy claimed last week that he had a secret defense pact with the Kremlin, a Soviet spokesman denied it, and hinted that Moscow shares some of Washington’s distrust of the Libyan leader.
″What Mr. Khadafy says is not always true. And we had no agreement with military cooperation with Mr. Khadafy,″ said Giorgi Arbatov, the head of Moscow’s USA-Canada Institute. Arbatov, a leading Kremlin authority on foreign affairs, has counseled Soviet leaders since Leonid Brezhnev.
U.S. itelligence analysts believe that Soviet advisers did not fire the SA- 5 anti-aircraft missiles that were unleased against U.S. planes during a U.S.-Libyan engagement over the disputed Gulf of Sidra last month, and have no evidence of Soviet casualities from that engagement, said one State Department official.
Since Khadafy seized power in 1969, he has traveled repeatedly to Moscow, most recently last October, when Kremlin officials again balked at signing a friendship treaties like those they have with Syria and South Yemen.
Khadafy, in return, has refused to grant the Soviets the deep water harbor they seek in the Libyan port of Tobruk, although he has allowed Soviet ships to anchor elsewhere along the coast.
When the U.S. 6th Fleet engaged Libyan forces in the disputed Gulf of Sidra on Mar. 25-26, a Soviet Don class submarine tender which often serves as the flag ship for the Kremlin’s Mediterranean fleet was moored in Tripoli harbor, said Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bob Prucha. However, the tender left in early April and no Soviet ships were in Libyan ports Monday, he said.
The spokesman declined to give the precise location of Soviet ships or the dates of their movements.
Although there is no formal Soviet-Libyan defense pact, the amount of military hardware the Soviets have sold Libya ″goes beyond what the Libyans can handle,″ said a State Department source.
Because of the falling price of oil, however, Libyan has dropped an estimated $6 billion behind in its arms payments to the Kremlin, straining a relationship that State Department officials say was never harmonious.
″It is a marriage of convenience in which each side gets something. But it is definately not love,″ said one department official.