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Italy Joins in Sanctions, Cuts Arms Sales to Libya

January 11, 1986|DON A. SCHANCHE | Times Staff Writer

ROME — In the first concrete European response to President Ronald Reagan's imposition of economic sanctions against Libya, Italy has suspended all arms sales to that oil-producing desert country, a Foreign Ministry official said Friday.

Announcement of total suspension of arms deliveries broadened a declaration Thursday by Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti and Defense Minister Giovanni Spadolini that "particularly dangerous arms" would be cut off during the present period of U.S.-Libyan tension.

America's other European allies have either rejected or remained noncommittal about Reagan's call for them to join the United States in imposing sanctions in response to terrorist attacks last month at the Rome and Vienna airports that Washington blames on Palestinian terrorists backed by Libya.

Foreign Ministry officials cautioned that the arms suspension does not amount to an endorsement of the global economic sanctions that Reagan has called for.

'The First Step'

"This measure is the first step Italy has taken while waiting to see what will be the position of our partners in the Common Market," an official explained.

Italy, along with France and West Germany, has called for an urgent meeting of European foreign ministers to consider a joint response to Reagan's call.

Types and quantities of arms involved in the Italian embargo were not spelled out, but the official said that the suspension will be total, even including small arms and spare parts.

He said that Italy has not signed any arms contracts with Libya since 1981 but that deliveries on contracts signed then had continued until Friday's suspension.

According to Jane's Information Services, a subsidiary of the London-based group that publishes the authoritative Jane's military yearbooks, Italy sold $750-million worth of arms to Libya in the most recent documented period, 1978 to 1983. Only the Soviet Union and France ranked above Italy in arms trade to Libya, according to Jane's.

Rome's usually reliable La Repubblica newspaper said that deliveries in recent years included 280 airplanes, 31 helicopters, 200 armored cars, four corvettes and quantities of missiles.

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