An editing error in a front page story on U.S.-Libyan relations yesterday changed the meaning of the second paragraph of the story. The paragraph should read: The State Department announcement left open the possibility that the United States may break off diplomatic relations unless the Libyan authorities say and do much more in recompense for the embassy assault.
The United States suspended most of its diplomatic activities in Libya yesterday and warned of additional steps if Libya does not accept responsibility for last Sunday's attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
The State Department announced that the United States may break off diplomatic relations unless the Libyan authorities say and do much more in recompence for the embassy assault.
Spokesman Hodding Carter depicted the Libyan response as unsatisfactory. He said the United States is asking the Libyan government "to acknowledge clearly its share of responsibility in what happened at our embassy" as well as to provide restitution for the damage and "firm assurances" about future security.
Foreign Minister Ali Abdal Salam Turayki, the highest official who has seen U.S. diplomats since the attack, expressed "regret" and said "all the necessary steps" have been taken to safeguard Americans. But the official continued to maintain the attack was the result of a "spontaneous demonstration" by students.
State Department officials, noting that some of the attackers wore military uniforms and that sound trucks were on the scene to encourage the crowd, have expressed doubt that the march on the U.S. Embassy could have been carried out without the tolerance or support of the Tripoli government.
The United States has also expressed sharp displeasure with Libya's failure to provide more than one guard for the embassy despite requests for protection.
Ali Huderi, the head of the Libyan Embassy here, was called to the State Department yesterday to receive the word of the U.S. position and the decison to suspend normal embassy operations in Tripoli for the time being. Huderi said he expects a reply from the Libyan government soon but that "we are going to behave as superpowers should behave and we are not going to overreact."
Until Sunday, Libya had been following a two-track policy, vocally backing the Iranian revolution while issuing a public statement and many private assurances that it opposes the taking of hostages.
Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi sent a plea for release of the hostages to ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran, the United States was told through diplomatic channels.
U.S. -- Libyan economic ties have grown apace in recent months. Libya is now the third largest supplier of imported oil to this country and second in the Middle East as a customer for U.S. goods.
Executives from Exxon, Conoco, Arathon and other oil companies operating in Libya said yesterday the State Department announcement has had no apparent impact on Tripoli's oil policy.
"Our operations are going on as usual," said one Exxon official.
Until Sunday's attack, the tenuous political relations between Washington and Tripoli seemed to be improving modestly, despite Qaddafi's revolutionary fervor and maverick posture on world issues.
It was unclear yesterday what effect, if any, the diplomatic quarrel will have on other economic relations.
Despite Qadaffi's radical posturing, the Libyans have continued to send a larger portion of their oil exports to the United States than to any other country. Currently the United States imports 10 percent of its daily need -- 800,000 barrels -- from Libya.
More than 50 American companies are located in the capital, Tripoli. This year American firms will sell more than $450 millin in goods and services to Libya, a small amount in comparison with the more than $8 billion the United States will pay for oil.
Following the weekend sacking of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, a number of companies operating in Libya began withdrawing employes' dependents. Mobil Oil, for example, has 40 American and 28 non-American dependents in Libya, and plans to evacuate all by next Sunday.
Exxon, which has 75 dependents, says it has left the evacuation of families to the discretion of employes.
Marathon Oil, which has a significant share of the Oasis oil consortium along with Conoco and other companies, has no dependents in Libya.
Oil executives say that because of Libya's efforts to strengthen military forces, which have drawn so many educated workers from the job force, the Libyans depend heavily on foreign companies to maintain oil production.