The United States briefed its NATO allies on the clash of U.S. and Libyan jets yesterday at an Atlantic Council meeting swiftly convened in Brussels to forestall repetition of earlier complaints about lack of consultation.
U.S. Ambassador W. Tapley Bennett Jr. underlined the U.S. view that Libya's SU22 jets mounted an unprovoked attack on U.S. F14s flying a patrol above 6th Fleet maneuvers in the Mediterranean's international waters, a council statement said.
"The council welcomed the prompt action on the part of the United States in briefing them," it added, according to the Associated Press.
The United States also presented its case at the United Nations, reporting on the clash in a letter to Security Council President Jorge Illueca of Panama and delivering the text of a protest note to the Libyan government.
Libya also presented its version of the confrontation, with Libyan Charge d'Affaires Juma Gariani declaring that the Libyan planes were attacked "over our territorial waters," special correspondent Michael J. Berlin reported in a dispatch to The Washington Post from U.N. headquarters.
Asked after his meeting with Illueca what Libya will do in response, Gariani said: "We will defend ourselves."
The Soviet U.N. delegate, Richard Ovinnikov, told reporters that the U.S. "air piracy should somehow be condemned." But neither the United States nor Libya called for a Security Council meeting, Berlin said.
There was no direct official comment from the Soviet Union. The official Soviet news agency, Tass, repeated without interpretation Libyan statements accusing the United States of attacking the planes as they patrolled over Libyan territorial waters.
Reaction in the Middle East, although sharp, appeared to be less widespread than recent condemnations of Israeli attacks on Iraq and Lebanon. Observers noted that, for the first day at least, public denunciations came only from Libya itself, Syria, Iran, the Palestine Liberation Organization and individual PLO guerrilla groups that get money and support fromLibya.
Iran, which although not Arab is an ally of Libya, called the encounter an "expansion of American crimes and aggression." Foreign Minister Mir Hossein Musavi suggested that the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, not "shy away from" a confrontation with the United States.
In Syria, a close ally of Libya and Iran, the government-controlled radio condemned the U.S. action as "American aggression."
The PLO, in a statement in Beirut, labeled the clash "flagrant aggression and a terrorist threat" carried out by the United States. The Palestinian group called for "comprehensive and radical steps" and "revolutionary Arab measures" against the United States.
In the past, the PLO has called for Arab states to halt oil shipments to the United States. Qaddafi has several times threatened to cut off Libyan oil exports -- about 10 percent of U.S. oil imports, making Libya the third-largest U.S. supplier after Saudi Arabia and Nigeria -- but he has not done so.