U.S. weighs retaliation against Libya

November 15, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- The White House threatened yesterday retaliation against Libya, including possible military strikes, after two Libyan intelligence officials were indicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people.

Administration officials charged that the jetliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, was the result of terrorism sanctioned by the government of Libyan leader Muammar el Kadafi and said President Bush was consulting with world leaders to fashion an international response.

"It's impossible for us to believe that the government was not involved and that this is not a case of state-sponsored terrorism," said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.

An administration official said one option under discussion was an international trade embargo aimed at shutting down Libya's oil exports.

Libya exports about 1.4 million barrels of oil a day. Taking that oil off world markets would drive up prices because the market is tight and no extra pumping capacity is available now, specialists say.

Analysts warned that a new oil-price spiral could knock the weak U.S. economy back into recession.

The United States has banned trade with Libya since 1986; Italy, Spain, Germany, Japan and many other countries continue to do business with it.

Asked about possible military strikes, Mr. Fitzwater said: "We don't rule out any option." But administration officials said privately that no decisions had been made and cautioned that military action was unlikely any time soon.

In 1986, the United States launched air strikes against Libya, charging that it was responsible for bombing a disco in West Berlin frequented by U.S. servicemen.

G. Henry M. Schuler, a Libya expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, predicted that Libya would retaliate if struck. "If we bomb him [Colonel Kadafi] again, and even if we get him, there will be other Libyans who would seek revenge," said Mr. Schuler, who favors an economic boycott.

Administration officials said there was no evidence linking Syria and Iran to the bombing, despite earlier suspicions. State Department deputy spokesman Richard Boucher strongly denied that the administration was clearing Syria because of its participation in the Mideast peace talks.

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