France hardened 'its position against the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan today by saying that the French attachment to detente is "not unconditional."
This followed a flood of Paris press comments about softness of the French official position.
French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing called President Carter yesterday to clarify the French stand, and French Foreign Minister Jean Franiois-Poncet called in U.S. Ambassador Arthur Hartman for the same purpose.
This came as Giscard and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt seemed to agree today on what the European community's position should be -- midway between the initially soft French stand and Britain's virtual alignment behind the Carter administration's policy of economic and diplomatic sanctions against the Soviets.
The French and West German leaders met for more than two hours today at the Elysee Palace in a hastily scheduled session. Schmidt stopped off in Paris on the way home from a brief vacation in Spain, where he called earlier in the day for West European solidarity with the U.S. position but stopped short of endorsing economic sanctions against the Soviets.
U.S. officials here said they found the French position today to be more "supportive" of the United States than previously.
Americans here say that the French have so far seemed to underestimate seriously the anger and determination of the public mood in the United States.
On Sunday Francois-Poncet refused to line up behind the U.S. program of economic countermeasures against the Soviet Union and expressed only mild disapproval of the Soviet in vasion. He said it would be a "grave error" to "Westernize the Afghan affair" and added that France, as an originator of detente, is duty-bound not to act hastily.
An official French statement following the regular weekly Cabinet meeting said: "France, for its part, does not intend to renounce the search for detente, which is of mutual interest and whose alternative is the return to the Cold War. But it considers that it is indispensable that the confidence needed for the continuation of detente to be reestablished through positive gestures, notably involving the right of the Afghan people to determine its own destiny."
It said that France is committed to detente to a "sincere, but not unconditional way." This apparently consituted a warning to the Soviets that if they continue to ignore world opinion even France would be forced to conclude that detente is over.