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Arabs Delay Decision on Anti-U.S. Move

January 11, 1986|Associated Press

FEZ, Morocco — Arab foreign ministers attending the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Fez said Friday that they have put off a decision on whether to impose countersanctions in retaliation for the U.S. economic boycott of Libya.

Libya earlier this week won two anti-American resolutions from the 45-member Muslim conference, which also includes non-Arab members. Some observers saw the postponement of a decision on countersanctions as indicating the reluctance of some pro-Western Arab countries to go beyond verbal condemnation of Washington.

Possible Arab measures were to be discussed at a special meeting of the 22-member Arab League on Monday in Tunis, Tunisia, but Sheik Mohammed ibn Mubarak al Khalifa, foreign minister of Bahrain, said that meeting had been postponed until the end of January.

'Modality of Response'

Libyan Foreign Secretary Ali Tureiki, who is attending the Islamic meeting, had said the Arab League will discuss the "modality of their response" to the U.S. sanctions.

Khalifa said Arab foreign ministers at the weeklong ICO meeting discussed possible economic measures against the United States Friday morning, but he declined to give details.

In the meantime, Khalifa said, Arab League Secretary General Chedli Klibi was asked to contact the European Communities and urge its 12 member countries not to follow the U.S. action.

President Reagan this week ordered an economic boycott of Libya and the freezing of Libyan assets in U.S. banks and their overseas branches. He took the action after accusing Libya of assisting Palestinian terrorists who carried out the Dec. 27 attacks at Rome and Vienna airports. Nineteen people died in the attacks, including five Americans and four terrorists.

The Islamic body Thursday unanimously passed a resolution strongly condemning the U.S. sanctions and calling for a response from Muslims, and on Tuesday passed a milder resolution declaring its "firm solidarity" with Libya.

Plays Down Setback

Libya's Tureiki played down Friday's setback, saying the decision was not really a postponement but an "organization of time to make a thorough study of possible measures."

Arab foreign ministers generally were not talking about the discussions in their meetings Thursday and Friday or their attitudes toward the Libyan push for concrete measures against the United States.

Typical of the responses was that of Iraqi Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz: "Iraq as usual attends any Arab meeting and when this (Arab League) meeting takes place, we will see what we will do."

Tureiki had said he would ask Arab states to take their money out of the United States and that he was seeking at the very least a boycott of American goods.

Libya's success in winning the second resolution against Washington came as somewhat of a surprise to diplomats and observers.

The Islamic Conference, with headquarters in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, was created to act as an Islamic equivalent of the United Nations, promoting cooperation and unity among its members. Its council is composed of the foreign ministers of its 45 member nations. It includes some pro-Western nations including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan.

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