Yesterday's statement by White House spokesman Larry Speakes:

U.S. naval aircraft and ships carrying out a peaceful freedom-of-navigation and overflight exercise in international waters and airspace in the Gulf of Sidra were fired on Monday by missile forces of Libya.

This morning at 7:52 a.m. EST, Libyan forces without provocation fired two long-range SA5 surface-to-air missiles from Surt, on the northern coast of Libya, at U.S. aircraft operating in international waters in the gulf. U.S. forces have been operating in that area since Sunday afternoon.

Two additional SA5s and an SA2 were launched from Surt at 12:45 p.m. An additional SA5 was fired at 1:14 p.m. At this point, Libyan forces had fired a total of six surface-to-air missiles at U.S. forces.

At approximately 2 p.m., a U.S. aircraft fired two Harpoon antiship missiles at a Libyan missile patrol boat, which was located near the 32'30" north line and was a threat to U.S. naval forces. The Libyan fast-attack craft was hit. The ship is dead in the water, burning and appears to be sinking. There are no apparent survivors.

At approximately 3 p.m., U.S. forces operating south of the 32'30" line responded to the missile attacks by launching two HARM high-speed antiradiation missiles at the SA5 site at Surt. At that time, the SA5 complex was attempting to engage our aircraft. We are now assessing the damage. We have no reports of any U.S. casualties, and no loss of U.S. aircraft or ships has been reported.

This attack was entirely unprovoked and beyond the bounds of normal international conduct. U.S. forces were intent only upon making the legal point that, beyond the internationally recognized 12-mile limit, the Gulf of Sidra belongs to no one and that all nations are free to move through international waters and airspace.

We deny Libya's claim, as almost all other nations do, and we condemn Libya's actions. They point out again, for all to see, the aggressive and unlawful nature of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi's regime.

It should be noted that because of these numerous Libyan missile launches and indications that they intend to continue air and missile attacks on U.S. forces, we now consider all approaching Libyan forces to have hostile intent.

We have taken appropriate measures to defend ourselves in this instance. We did not, of course, proceed into this area with our eyes closed. We reserve the right to take additional measures as events warrant