The swift U.S. military response to Libya's reported threat against Sudan has caused the tensions there to recede and put Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi "back in his box," Secretary of State George P. Shultz said yesterday.
"As far as we know, the threat that was clearly present has receded," Shultz said in reference to the effects of the dispatch to the area last week of U.S. Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveillance planes and the carrier Nimitz.
"I don't want to go into all the ins and outs of it, but I think the net of the whole thing is that the president of the United States acted quickly and decisively and effectively, and at least for the moment, Qaddafi is back in his box where he belongs," Shultz asserted on "This Week With David Brinkley" (ABC, WJLA).
Similar comments came from Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) who said on "Face the Nation" (CBS, WDVM) that the AWACS planes will return from Egypt "certainly before Wednesday."
He added, "It is my understanding that their Libya's plan of operation has been withdrawn, and clearly there is no longer a threat."
Neither Shultz nor Jackson commented directly on details of the reported Libyan scheme.
However, U.S. officials have revealed that Egypt discovered a Qaddafi plan for Libyan-armed agents to assassinate Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeri and his top aides and, backed by Libyan air strikes, to seize the airport at Sudan's capital, Khartoum, so Libyan troops could land to complete the coup.
At the request of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, President Reagan sent the AWACS planes to Egypt to help Mubarak's air force scan the skies for Libyan warplanes reportedly concentrated near Libya's border with Sudan.
He also dispatched the Nimitz to stage air exercises in the Mediterranean Sea near Libya and then take up a holding position off the Egyptian coast.
Saturday, Pentagon officials revealed that the Nimitz was returning to its position off Lebanon, where it has been supporting U.S. Marines in Beirut, and that the AWACS planes would return to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma by midweek.
However, Shultz noted "a long history of reprehensible behavior on the part of Qaddafi" and declared: "So I expect that he will continue to cause trouble, and our approach, I think, is to let him see that his options are limited and we know what's going on and to conduct ourselves accordingly."
The United States has branded Qaddafi "an international terrorist." In an interview in the current issue of SAIS Review magazine, Chester A. Crocker, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said Qaddafi seeks to subvert more than half the countries of sub-Saharan Africa and to overthrow the governments in Sudan and Chad.
At another point in a wide-ranging interview, Shultz gave the strongest public sign so far that the administration expects King Hussein of Jordan to respond to Reagan's call for broadened peace talks on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Shultz said:
"There's nothing new that can be stated publicly, but I think it is well known by this time that King Hussein wants to enter the peace process. He recognizes the importance of working out peace problems with Israel, and I'm pretty optimistic that one of these fine days the conditions will be right for raising that negotiating level a new notch."
Questioned about problems in U.S.-China relations, Shultz was asked why the administration does not have Taiwan buy its weapons from France or some other country. He replied: "You mean you want us to take a cop-out . . . . Oh, come on."
He also endorsed Reagan's determination to seek confirmation of Kenneth L. Adelman as director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency despite heavy opposition in the Senate. He said of Adelman: "We need him and we want him and we're going to fight for him and we're going to get him." Jackson called for the administration to give "highest priority" to helping Mexico resolve its debt problems, saying that there is a "definite, distinct possibility" that the Mexican government might be overthrown and replaced by "a Castro government on our border."
However, Shultz, asked about Mexico's difficulties, took a much more low-key approach and said, "I believe they can be handled with good work."