A Lebanese woman suspected of planting a bomb aboard a TWA airliner Wednesday voiced support today for attacks against selected American targets but reiterated her innocence and said she would never strike "innocent women and children."
Speaking to reporters in the northern city of Tripoli, a woman who identified herself as May Elias Manssour, 31, acknowledged her record as an activist against Israelis and Christian Phalange fighters in Lebanon's civil war, according to news agency reports reaching here. She said that she supports attacks against American targets and confirmed that she is a member of the National Syrian Social Party. "I have fought with the party since 1975, but I am not an explosives expert as they say," she declared.
Asked if she could ever carry out an operation similar to the bombing of the TWA flight if her party asked her to, Manssour responded: "Yes, I would do it because the party's motto is 'Act and object later.' But I know the party would never ask me to do something like that."
She repeated a threat to sue the United States for slandering her and linking her to the explosion, which killed four Americans aboard TWA Flight 840 as it approached Athens.
"I will file a suit against the American government. They have endangered my interests," said Manssour, who said she is a boutique owner and a widow with an 8-year-old daughter.
"I can't travel any more until this is cleared up. They've harmed my health as well," she said.
Wearing a white silk dress and sitting erectly before the cameras, Manssour confirmed that she had been on the TWA flight from Cairo to Athens.
Manssour, who said she is disabled in her right arm and leg from a nerve disorder, said she had traveled to Cairo on March 25 to respond to advertisements in Egypt's Al Ahram newspaper for seamstresses, whom she hoped to employ in her shop.
"Is it possible for me, as a disabled and paralyzed woman . . . to carry a briefcase and an explosive charge and pass through seven checkpoints? That's incredible," she told reporters gathered at the Tripoli offices of the party.
"It is not fair to humiliate anyone like that, and it is not fair to kill innocent people. Their accusation is inaccurate and unproven," she insisted. She speculated that she had become a suspect because she is Lebanese.
"I support attacks against American targets, but not the way this attack was carried out . . . . the United States as an army, a country and a policy -- I am against it. They have shelled our houses and killed our children. I support attacks against American military targets or politicians and important people who have influence," Manssour added.
Italian police said she flew from Cairo to Athens on TWA, then boarded a Middle East Airlines flight to Beirut. Beirut-bound flights are irregular because of dwindling passenger traffic, which means travelers often have to fly to another connecting point before rerouting to Lebanon.
Manssour said that she could not remember her seat number. "When the plane returned to Athens from Rome, I was still in the transit hall at Athens airport, where I spent seven hours waiting," she said, adding that while waiting for the MEA flight she saw ambulances and fire engines racing on the runway but had no idea what had happened. She said she was surprised to hear her name linked to the explosion.
Manssour is the widow of a fighter in the militia of the National Syrian Social Party who led an escape from the Israeli Ansar prison in southern Lebanon in 1983. He died two years later in a clash with the Christian militia of former president Suleiman Franjieh. She comes from a northern Lebanese village in the Koura district, which is under the control of Syrian troops. The National Syrian Social Party, which she joined in the early 1970s, advocates a "Greater Syria," which would encompass Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Israel.