WASHINGTON — White House and State Department officials condemned the terrorist attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports Friday, saying the new violence shows the need for international cooperation against terrorism.
"We certainly deplore and condemn the violence," White House spokesman Larry Speakes said before President Reagan left Washington for a year-end holiday in Southern California. "This underscores the need for nations to work together to put an end to terrorism. We would hope that those who are responsible for this cowardly act would be apprehended and punished to the fullest extent."
At the State Department, spokesman Charles Redman used similar language to characterize the attacks, in which terrorists threw hand grenades and fired automatic weapons at the check-in counters of the Israeli airline El Al and the adjacent counters of other airlines. Seventeen people were killed and at least 116 wounded.
Responsibility Not Pinpointed
Redman said the United States "has no information concerning the responsibility for the attacks" and declined to identify any organization or government that might be linked with them.
The violence, he said in a statement, "demonstrates again that terrorism threatens all nations." Citing a recently passed U.N. resolution condemning international terrorism, he added, "We call upon all members of the world community to join in combating forcefully these criminal acts and bringing to justice those responsible."
Pressed for details on the kind of international action being proposed, Redman replied, "The people who work on these kinds of issues are looking at all kinds of specific ways we can address the subject." He refused to elaborate.
However, he said cooperation between the United States and other governments had resulted during the past year in the foiling of "at least 90" potential terrorist attacks of all kinds worldwide.
The spokesman called U.S. officials "confident that Italian and Austrian authorities are taking appropriate security precautions at these airports."
He refused to confirm suggestions that Friday's attacks were predicted by an advisory that the Federal Aviation Administration sent Nov. 15 to major airports worldwide, warning of a possible attack by Iranian-trained terrorists.
The message, asserting that 400 individuals of varied nationalities were being trained and that 176 false Algerian passports had been forged, was distributed only days before an attempt to end the terrorist takeover of an Egyptian airliner at the Malta airport led to 60 deaths.
At the FAA, Fred Farrar, the agency's spokesman, confirmed that an advisory had gone out to airports and airlines serving the Middle East but said he did not have enough facts to report whether that warning could be applied to Friday's incident.
"We did issue an alert or an advisory last November, but I can't go into the specifics," Farrar said.
The Associated Press reported from London that on Christmas Eve, police in the Netherlands said that Interpol, the Paris-based international policy agency, had warned two weeks earlier that an airport might be a terrorist target during the Christmas holidays.
Dutch police spokesman Rik Hirs said the Interpol message mentioned a possible attack "somewhere in the world" by terrorists "of probably Arab origin," carrying false, probably Moroccan or Egyptian passports.
In Paris, Interpol said that airports were told in November to be on alert but that specific airlines were not mentioned. An Interpol spokesman declined to release details of the warning or say why it was issued.
Speakes told reporters that Reagan was advised of the attacks by the White House situation room at about 7 a.m. and was briefed by Donald R. Fortier, his deputy national security adviser. He said the President was awaiting fuller information before communicating either with the government of Israel or with the families of victims.