Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi tonight publicly proclaimed his hopes of forcing a rift between the United States and its Western European allies.
Qaddafi said at a press conference here that he will attempt to build on the Arab and international support shown him in the face of the Reagan administration's boycott to force the U.S. military out of its bases in Europe and drive its fleet from the Mediterranean.
In a bid resembling Soviet efforts to pull Western Europe away from the United States, Qaddafi repeatedly suggested that Washington is sacrificing Europe's interests for its own. Without giving specifics, he also said he would "support" peace movements in Europe to undermine the American position there.
Apparently interpreting the Europeans' refusal to go along with Washington's proposed economic sanctions as a sign that America's allies already are sympathetic to his regime, Qaddafi proposed to "shoulder the responsibility" of creating "a new international zone that will consist of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Arab and African countries to preserve peace and human civilization."
He also reiterated his threats to use suicide squads to take the war home to America if he is attacked militarily. But he seemed to suggest that a direct strike against him might not be the only provocation.
"Libya may very well decide to fight on its own part at any time in order to get rid of the state terrorism against it and the Arab nation" by Israel and the United States, he said, speaking in Arabic with simultaneous English translation.
Qaddafi, dressed in a blue sleeveless jacket over a burgundy shirt, spoke in the conference room of the heavily fortified Bab Aziziya barracks before 58 journalists from around the world. It was the kind of flamboyant performance he is known for. He responded to Reagan's description of him as "flaky" by calling the president "a useless actor." He ended the performance with a V sign, then had his aides bring five female journalists to him for further interviews.
Clearly showing confidence during the conference, he used what he called "this historical opportunity which America and the Israelis have given me" to outline plans and positions that might not otherwise be listened to from the leader of a desert country with 3 million people, serious food shortages and falling oil revenues.
The Libyan leader said his nation has long been prepared for the U.S. boycott and would not be not hurt by the freezing of its assets announced yesterday in Washington.
He suggested that his response is likely to be an attempt for united Arab action at a special meeting of foreign ministers of the Arab League scheduled for Monday.
The U.S. measures "deserve a response in kind, not only a Libyan response but an Arab and international response," Qaddafi said.
Yesterday and today he "remained in constant contact with all Arab presidents, emirs and kings," he told the press conference. "This is an Arab-American-Israeli issue. . . . We must do something serious this time that will bring America back to its senses" and force it to end its support for Israel.
Addressing the events that began the current crisis, Qaddafi refused to condemn the Palestinian terrorists who killed 19 people, including five Americans, at the Rome and Vienna airports last month.
"As independent states we do not condone such acts," he said. "But as for the Palestinians -- it may well be necessary for them."
He declared in his opening statement that "Libya will not hesitate to provide what the Palestinian resistance demands for the liberation of Palestine," including training camps if they desire.
Last night, at a meeting with Western European ambassadors, Qaddafi reportedly said he would try to persuade Palestinian fighters not to attack targets in Europe but to limit their actions to "the occupied territory" -- presumably including Israel. But today he withdrew that offer.
"You have to revise what I said," he told one questioner. "We are fighting for the liberation of Palestine. Anything other than that is something that concerns the Palestinians themselves."
But his main thrust last night was an effort to force a wedge between Washington and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.
Meeting with the envoys of Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece and Spain, Qaddafi repeatedly emphasized the "common interests" his country shares with them and accused the United States of working against them, according to one of those present.
He reminded the ambassadors that Western Europe has 45,000 workers and 230 companies here, pointed out that Libya has $13 billion worth of contracts with Europe and said he is planning projects worth $36 billion more to those who share in them, this diplomat said.
Qaddafi reportedly talked of a wide range of cooperative ventures, economic and political, and even suggested that he would work with Interpol to track down European terrorists here if the European governments would return anti-Qaddafi terrorists to him.
But he also made thinly veiled threats, according to diplomatic sources.
If Libya were attacked by the United States from bases in Europe, he was quoted as telling the European ambassadors, "then we have to close our eyes and ears and hit indiscriminately."
"We are going to react with suicide squads against towns, ports, etc., wherever the threats are -- while at the same time the Americans are far away," diplomatic sources reported Qaddafi as saying. "If it comes to war, we will drag Europe into it."
European diplomats here have said that"Libya may very well decide to fight on its own part at any time in order to get rid of the state terrorism against it and the Arab nation." -- Muammar Qaddafi one of their major concerns is that too much pressure on Qaddafi from Washington will push him firmly into the Soviet camp. They note that while most of Qaddafi's arms are supplied by Moscow, he does not let the Soviets base ships in Libya's strategically located ports. Playing on these concerns tonight, Qaddafi hinted that that policy might change.
"We may have to tip the balance in the Mediterranean if we feel we are threatened by a superpower such as the Americans," Qaddafi said, adding that this might entail a change in "our way of thinking toward the various world groups."
Expanding his scope of concerns well beyond his own borders, the Libyan leader also criticized the presence of U.S. nuclear missiles in Europe. He said that they represented the same kind of thoughtless American threat to European interests as the attacks now directed against him.
Qaddafi said he would support such peace movements as the Greens Party in West Germany, which also opposed the deployment of U.S. missiles, "in order to undermine American bases in Europe and the Mediterranean."