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Soviets Support U.S., Urge All Terrorists Be Severely Punished

October 12, 1985|From Times Wire Services

The Soviet Union, long a supporter of Palestinian aspirations for a homeland, supported the United States on Friday in its interception of the plane carrying four Palestinian gunmen who hijacked the Achille Lauro.

"The Americans' anger at the hijackers' crime aboard a cruise liner is understandable and just," the official Soviet news agency Tass said. "The crimes of terrorists, no matter where they are committed, must be punished most severely, and such severity must be shown unfailingly to all perpetrators of such crimes."

The Soviet Union is trying to free three of its own diplomats taken hostage in Beirut 12 days ago, and Tass said that "the principles of international relations demand a uniform attitude to those who with malicious intent threaten or take away the lives of citizens of any country."

Tass said the principle must be applied uniformly, and said that "there can be no 'good terrorists' and 'bad terrorists.' " It called for the extradition from the United States of two Lithuanians who killed a stewardess during a 1970 hijacking of a Soviet airliner.

Israel Welcomes Move

Israel warmly welcomed the U.S. interception, seeing in the move a vindication of its own tough line on terrorism and a development that may help its attempts to keep the Palestine Liberation Organization out of the Middle East peace process.

In Senegal, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat made no immediate comment, and a spokesman for Senegalese President Abdou Diouf said that Arafat canceled a news conference set for Friday. PLO representatives elsewhere said that the U.S. military action violated international law, and one said that it imperiled possible future hostages.

Some American allies responded cautiously. The British and West German governments both said that the terrorists should be punished, but Bonn refused to comment on the legality of the U.S. action, taken in international airspace.

Egypt's Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the move, saying that it "will not serve the peace process."

Lining up with the PLO in condemning the U.S. move were the anti-American government of Iran, the Soviet-backed government of Poland and anonymous callers in Beirut, who threatened to retaliate if the captured Palestinians were not released.

'Courageous Decision'

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres sent a message to the White House saluting President Reagan's "courageous decision and decisive action." A similar message was sent to Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

"We congratulate you and the U.S. Navy on the flawless implementation--a major contribution to the international struggle against the double plague of cold-blooded murders and outright lies by both the perpetrators and their superiors. Your action is a landmark in the fight to eradicate terrorism and a shining example of your resolve."

Israeli officials were delighted by reports that Abul Abbas, leader of the pro-Arafat wing of the Palestine Liberation Front, was aboard the Egyptian plane when it was intercepted and forced to land in Sicily early Friday.

They were even more pleased by the reported trapping of Hani Hassan, a close adviser to the PLO leader. Security sources in Jerusalem said that it would be a very serious matter if the two men were freed by the Italian authorities and only the four hijackers tried.

Bonn Stresses Justice

West German Foreign Ministry spokesman Juergen Chrobog told a news conference in Bonn: "We were not participants in this matter. But it fits everyone's sense of justice that wrongdoers should be brought to justice." He refused to say whether Bonn officials believe that forcing down the hijackers' plane violated international law.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said in London, "The British government's position is that no concessions should be made to terrorists and that whenever possible they should be brought to book."

British Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe told Independent Television News that the U.S. action "surely cannot be a matter for regret or for anything other than satisfaction."

"We applaud the fact that the terrorists are going to be brought to face justice," he said. Howe indicated that he thinks the U.S. action was legal, saying that international conventions against terrorism place an obligation on nations to see that terrorists are prosecuted.

"That is clearly the object of what happened here," he said.

British Social Democratic leader David Owen, a former Labor foreign secretary, criticized the U.S. intervention, saying, "International terrorism, abhorrent as it is, cannot justify states violating international law whatever the provocation, whatever the frustration."

PLO Official Critical

In Paris, a senior PLO official condemned the U.S. military action as an "act of piracy."

Agence France-Presse, the French news agency, quoted Ibrahim Souss, the PLO's longtime representative in France, as saying that U.S. intervention was "in flagrant violation of international law."

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