Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, in a clear break with virtually the entire Arab world, yesterday condemned the Palestinian attack in Israel over the weekend as "irresponsible" and said he considered it "very sad and tragic."
Sadat said that the attack, in which 45 persons died, "is part of the vicious circle that I've done my best during my last visit to Jerusalem to break."
Speaking only hours before Israeli troops moved into southern Leganon in retaliation for the Palestinian attack. Sadat, in an apparent plea to Israel to forego such a move, said, "Let us break this vicious circle of action and reaction, because it will lead to nothing."
The State Department promptly commended the Egyptian president's stand, saying, "We welcome President's Sadat's statesmanlike position, which we feel is in keeping with his entire approach to seeking a peaceful solution in the Middle East."
Sadat's denunciation, which ended three days of top-level Egyptian silence on the raid, was in sharp contrast to the reaction of other Arab countries.
Leaders or the state-controlled press of nearly all other Arab countries, ranging from radical states such as Libya and Iraq to conservative states in the Persian Gulf, have praised the Palestinian raid, calling it "courageous" and "heroic."
Sadat discussed the raid wish reporters while visiting a Nile Valley town south of Cairo. His statement, made in English, was broadcast by Cairo Radio.
"I am against anything done against the civilians," Sadat said. "The is our position here in Egypt . . . Really, I shall always condemn this irresponsible action."
Sadat said that "when I heard that the Palestine Liberation Organization declared their responsibility about it I asked myself this question - what will be the result? I should have liked action toward the establishment of peace instead of starting revenge again."
Al Fatah, one of several organizations within the umbrella PLO, claimed responsibility for the Saturday raid, in which 36 Israelis and none of the 11 Palestinian commandos were captured.
Although both Fatah and the PLO are under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, the PLO itself has not claimed responsibility for the attack and it has been learned that PLO leaders, in order to keep a distance from the operation, blocked release of a statement that would have claimed responsibility for the PLO.
The State Department, nonetheless said yesterday that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance has ordered a review of the PLO's activities in the United States.
The review could result in the closing of an information office that the PLO has in New York but there appeared to be legal problems in placing restrictions on the operation of the PLO's mission to the United Nations. The mission was opened three years ago after the PLO was granted observer status.
Sadat's condemnation of the raid and of the PLO came as no surprise since he and the PLO have been at odds since the Palestinian organization joined with militant Arab states to undercut Egypt's peace initiative toward Israel.
Sadat had denounced the PLO last month after a close friend of his, Egyptian editor Youseff Sabei, was killed by Palestinian terrorists in Cyprus.
Before Sadat spoke yesterday, Egypt had limited its reaction to the Saturday raid to a statement by Deputy Foreign Minister Boutros Ghali noting the renewed need to resolve the Palestinian problem.
Of Israel's other Arab neighbors, both Syria and Jordon had, through their state-controlled press, praised the attack. Damascus radio called it a "courageous operation" and the Jordanian press said the raid was a result of Israel's stubborness in "refusing to recognize the right to life of the Palestinian people."
Iraqi Radio talked of the "heroic fedayeen" who carried out the raid and Algerian radio called it a "courageous" act.
The state-operated Saudi radio initially praised the "courageous action," said Saudi officials in Washington said Monday that Foreign Minister Saud Faisal had said that the radio's statements did not reflect the government's official position.
In Lebanon yesterday, Reuter reported that Christian Phalangist leader Pierre Gemayel told reporters after calling on President Ellias Sarkis, that he had protested over the commandos' issuing of a statement from Beirut to announce responsibility for the raid.
This created a pretex for Israel to attack Lebanon in revenge, Gemayel said.