President Reagan's call for economic sanctions against Libya drew a rejection from West Germany yesterday and skeptical or delaying answers from other allies.
Italy, Libya's biggest trading partner, as well as France and Britain, which have reduced their substantial commercial links with Tripoli in recent years, all indicated reluctance to take steps against the government of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Bonn's chief spokesman, Friedhelm Ost, said the West German Cabinet decided yesterday against joining in sanctions.
"Past experience shows that sanctions, regardless of who imposes them, have never had the desired result and have often produced the opposite effect," Ost said.
But Ost said Bonn agreed with Washington that there was evidence linking Libya to the Dec. 27 airport attacks in Rome and Vienna, and would take part in U.S.-proposed consultations on an appropriate response.
In Paris, French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius said that France would consult with West Germany and Britain within a few days to coordinate their positions toward Libya. "The big problem is whether sanctions will be effective," Fabius said in a television interview yesterday, adding, "Unfortunately, there have already been sanctions in 1981 taken by the United States which have not achieved anything as yet."
Fabius also declared that French trade with Libya already has been cut by two-thirds since 1981, when the current Socialist government took office.
"There's no point beating the air with a sword," he added. "If sanctions are going to be ineffective, they have no interest."
Similar skepticism about sanctions was expressed in London, where a Foreign Office spokesman said, "So far, there is no change in British government policy that economic sanctions tend not to be effective."
A spokesman for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher added, "The prime minister remains as dedicated to stopping terrorism as anyone, but it is a question of effectiveness."
In Rome, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti called for a special meeting of European Community foreign ministers to coordinate a response. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Italy would make no decision on sanctions until consulting with its EC partners.
Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broeke, who currently heads the EC council, said the issue would be discussed at a regular meeting scheduled for Jan. 27.
A Canadian government spokesman stressed today that Ottawa had not made a decision on whether to impose sanctions against Libya. He said comments to the contrary yesterday had been "simply inaccurate."
Sean Brady, chief spokesman for Canada's Ministry of External Affairs, noted that Canada already severely restricted trade with Libya and added, "We are now considering whether further steps . . . are necessary." Whatever Canada decides with regard to Libya, Brady said, Ottawa will not take over business from American companies that are pulling out.
In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe expressed "understanding" for the U.S. decision to impose sanctions but said that Japan, which stopped buying Libyan oil in 1982, "would like to discuss it and collect relevant information" before deciding whether to join in the U.S. effort to isolate Libya economically.
A Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman said his government had no plans to join in the sanctions, while Belgium's Foreign Ministry expressed doubt that they would be "productive."
A U.S. special envoy, Stephen Ledogar, briefed North Atlantic Treaty Organization ambassadors in Brussels on the Reagan administration's call for sanctions and said that U.S. officials would urge allied nations individually to bring economic pressure against Libya.
In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Kapitsa said the Soviet Union and its allies "will support Libya in every respect against such crude, imperialist pressure from the United States." Kapitsa, in a news conference, accused Washington of "gunboat diplomacy" and "a policy of global war against national liberation movements."
Tass, the official Soviet news agency, charged the United States with seeking "to draw its allies into anti-Libya actions, and thus lending a global character to its adventurist policy."
Iran also spoke out in Libya's defense. Tehran Radio said President Ali Khamenei telephoned Qaddafi after Reagan's call for sanctions, saying, "We are at your side and will consider any move against the brother country Libya as a move against the Islamic Republic of Iran."