Several Arab states yesterday condemned the United States in its military confrontation with Libya, and militant allies such as Syria and Iran expressed full solidarity with the regime of Col. Muammar Qaddafi. Syria sent Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam to Tripoli in a quick show of support and radical Palestinian groups in Damascus threatened attacks against the United States.
In Beirut, a pro-Libyan group fired shells that landed about a mile from the U.S. Embassy, and a Libyan broadcast urging Arabs to kill "American spies" raised new concerns about the safety of several Americans being held captive by Shiite Moslem groups in Lebanon.
Israel and other governments closely allied with the Reagan administration, including Britain and West Germany, expressed support for the United States, but several other Western European countries responded cautiously, with some, such as Italy and Greece, criticizing Washington.
Canada, which has 1,300 citizens working in Libya, said it had "underlined our concern to Washington about the safety of Canadian nationals in Libya." Its external affairs minister, Joe Clark, urged that both sides "show restraint" and said "Canada's position is that disputes over maritime claims should be settled by peaceful means in accordance with international law."
The Arab League's Council of Foreign Ministers, meeting in Tunisia, unanimously adopted a resolution condemning what it called "the American aggression against Libya" and asked for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to deal with the conflict, The Associated Press reported from Tunis.
Syria's state-run radio condemned the U.S. "aggression" and said that if it continued, "the world will find itself captive to the law of the jungle." A radical Palestinian group headed by terrorist Abu Nidal said in Damascus that it now considered all U.S. interests as legitimate targets for attack by its "revolutionaries."
In Tehran, Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi said Iran fully supported Libya and called the U.S. action a "flagrant violation against territorial integrity of an Islamic country." In Algiers, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Algeria was deeply concerned by "the implementation of threats to use force against Libya."
In the conservative Arabian Peninsula, the government-owned press in the United Arab Emirates denounced the U.S. action as "aggression" and the state-controlled press in Kuwait called it a "provocation," AP reported.
In Egypt, which has been on hostile terms with Libya for years, the government had no official reaction to the attacks.
In Jordan, another Arab ally of the United States, Information Minister Mohammed Khatib, asked about Jordan's position, said, "We are against any aggression on any Arab country by any foreign power." But he refused to say whether Jordan considered the U.S. actions to be aggression.
Qaddafi sent Foreign Minister Kamel Hassan Mansour to Morocco, one of his closest North African allies, to deliver a letter to King Hassan II. Hassan, who is also close to the United States, had offered in a message to Reagan in January to mediate between the two countries.
Israel applauded the U.S. attacks on the Libyan warships and missile site in the Gulf of Sidra, calling them a "firm stand" against international terrorism. But Israeli officials stressed that they viewed the clashes as having no relevance to the broader Arab-Israeli conflict and the offices of both Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister, Yitzhak Shamir tried to distance Israel from the conflict.
Peres said in a statement that "Libya is a spearhead of international terrorism and a source of violence and danger to the area. A firm stand and a decisive action against terrorist threats are the basis for assuring peace and freedom throughout the world."
Avi Pazner, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said, "We are encouraged by the firm stand of the United States against the behavior of Muammar Qaddafi, who continues to promote international terrorist activity."
The West German government expressed support for the U.S. right to conduct naval exercises off the Libyan coast, but urged both parties to avoid further combat. The opposition Social Democrats chided the conservative ruling coalition for its muted response and criticized the Reagan administration for its "Rambo-style demonstration of military might."
In London, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told Parliament that the U.S. ships and aircraft "were operating in international waters and airspace and they have every right so to do." She added, "It is important that international waters and airspace be kept open and we support their right so to operate." But Denis Healey, foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Labor Party, criticized the U.S. action.
Some of the sharpest European criticism came from Italy, considered to be one of the countries most at risk from possible Libyan retaliation since the U.S. 6th fleet has its headquarters in Naples. In addition, Secretary of State George P. Shultz is arriving in Rome Friday for a three-day visit.
Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi met with U.S. Ambassador Maxwell Rabb and later said he had given Rabb a message calling on Washington to "avoid the repetition of acts of war that could lead to even more serious and uncontrollable situations."
"We consider it unacceptable that a controversy of this nature is handled by military means and similarly we consider inadmissible the recourse to arms to sustain such a claim," Craxi said in a speech to the Chamber of Deputies.
He said the "repeated military exercises in the Gulf of Sidra by the United States are not an appropriate way of seeking to reestablish respect for an international principle and, furthermore, contain an element of high risk that creates great concern."
Craxi urged the two sides to find a peaceful solution, saying, "Italy does not want war at its doorstep."
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean region, reaction was more nuanced. France and Spain both expressed concern at the military confrontation but did not explicitly criticize the Reagan administration's action.
The Paris daily Le Monde said Reagan's tough line with Libya could lead to "a new period of tension in American-Soviet relations," because it was unlikely that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would accept what amounted to "a reduction in the sphere of Soviet influence."
Greece's Socialist government, which has insisted that the facilities for the U.S. 6th Fleet on Crete should not be used against Greece's Arab friends, issued a statement deploring "provocations and confrontations" that it said posed a threat to peace in the region.
Support for the U.S. action came from the Dutch government, which issued a statement regretting "very much that Libya has undertaken actions in and above international waters against units that were on the high seas."