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Soviets Say U.S. Lost Several Planes in Raid on Libya

April 23, 1986|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — A Soviet spokesman charged Tuesday that the United States may have lost as many as five or six warplanes in last week's bombing raid on Libya rather than the one F-111 fighter-bomber acknowledged by the Pentagon.

Vladimir B. Lomeiko, chief Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the Soviet Union has evidence from "national technical means"--a diplomatic euphemism for Earth satellite cameras--that a total of three U.S. planes were downed. He added at a news briefing that two other U.S. planes were seen in damaged condition on the ground.

Under questioning, however, Lomeiko refused to elaborate on his charges or provide clarification, saying that the exact number of planes lost was "a headache for the American Air Force." Some sources, he said, indicated that the United States lost a total of six planes.

Speakes Issues Denial

In Washington, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said, "Those reports are incorrect and only contribute to Libyan disinformation."

The United States has said one F-111 was lost in the April 15 attack on Tripoli and Benghazi, and five other F-111s and two A-6 carrier-based jets aborted their missions because of mechanical failures.

A newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, the state-run Al Ittihad, quoted Libyan sources over the weekend as saying the wreckage of the downed F-111 was pulled from the Mediterranean and shipped to the Soviet Union for technical inspection.

Bodies in Tripoli

The newspaper also reported that the bodies of the two American crewmen, Capt. Fernando L. Ribas-Dominicci, 33, of Puerto Rico, and Capt. Paul F. Lorence, 31, of Oakland, Calif., are being kept in the Libyan capital.

In Libya, where Information Ministry officials have been leading foreign reporters on guided tours of the civilian damage inflicted by the raids, no wreckage from any downed U.S. warplane has been displayed.

However, Libyan television broadcast pictures Tuesday night of three pieces of metal wreckage, and an announcer said it was from the U.S. F-111 shot down last week, the Associated Press reported.

The news agency said it was impossible to identify the wreckage as being from an aircraft or to determine what nationality it might have been.

Meanwhile, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze said that the attack on Libya has "seriously complicated" the prospects for a Soviet-American summit this year.

Depends on Administration

"The creation of conditions necessary for resuming dialogue at a high level now depends on the U.S. Administration," Shevardnadze said in a speech marking the 116th birthday of V.I. Lenin, founder of the Soviet state.

"What are needed are practical actions that can reduce the military danger and increase trust among states," he added. "We are prepared for this."

Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who also has said that the U.S. actions against Libya have spoiled the atmosphere for a second summit, sat on the rostrum and applauded Shevardnadze's remarks.

U.S. Reportedly Curbed

The foreign minister also said that measures taken by the Kremlin leadership helped to stop the United States from carrying out further raids against Libya. He did not elaborate.

Although he spoke before the United States carried out its latest nuclear test Tuesday, Shevardnadze again urged the United States to halt nuclear explosions.

"The Soviet Union has not conducted nuclear blasts for eight months and is in no hurry to resume them now," he said. The Kremlin, however, has declared that it no longer feels bound by a test moratorium announced by Gorbachev last August.

In another development, the U.S. Embassy was splattered with paint-bombs thrown by young people during an officially approved demonstration against the raid on Libya and the U.S. nuclear testing program.

With the permission of police, more than 100 demonstrators stood in the busy highway opposite the embassy, carrying signs in English and Russian and chanting slogans for more than six hours Tuesday afternoon.

Protesters Instructed

Witnesses said the demonstrators arrived in buses and were instructed in fist-waving and chanting techniques after they assembled on the road.

The embassy, which is badly in need of repainting, was daubed with black, green and purple paint by half a dozen youths who tossed paint-filled bags at the building. Police, stationed outside the embassy, took the youths to a nearby trailer for questioning.

Demonstrators held placards which said: "Hands off Libya" and "No to Nuclear War."

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