U.S. special envoy Vernon Walters discussed allied responses to terrorism with Chancellor Helmut Kohl today but reportedly made little progress in persuading the West German government to endorse tough action against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
West German officials said Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher warned that a U.S. military strike against Libya could prove counterproductive if it rallied widespread Arab support for Qaddafi and afforded a pretext for further terrorist attacks.
Walters, who arrived here from London on the second leg of a European tour to drum up allied support for the United States in its confrontation with Libya, flew to Paris tonight after holding separate talks with Kohl and Genscher.
He met this evening with French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and is scheduled to meet Monday with President Francois Mitterrand.
[Neither Walters nor Chirac would comment on the substance of their talks afterward, Agence France-Presse reported from Paris. Walters told reporters, "We made a broad tour of the horizon, and this consultation will be followed by others in the framework of American relations."]
The West German government has adopted a cautious attitude toward any punitive action against Qaddafi's government, even though Kohl admitted Friday that "a whole number of indications" point to Libyan involvement in the bombing of a West Berlin discotheque a week ago that killed two persons and injured more than 200. One of those killed and many of the injured were U.S. military personnel and dependents.
Genscher is to attend a special meeting of European Community foreign ministers in The Hague on Monday to discuss the growing tensions between the United States and Libya. He plans to go from there to Washington to consult with President Reagan and Secretary of State George P. Schultz.
West German officials said Genscher hopes to secure a mandate in The Hague to speak on behalf of the 12-nation bloc in advising the United States about the risks of using force against Libya.
In London, British officials and U.S. diplomats maintained a strict silence concerning the talks yesterday between Walters and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Washington Post correspondent Karen DeYoung reported. No British or U.S. officials would comment on reports that the United States had asked Britain to acquiesce in the use of U.S. Air Force F111 fighter-bombers stationed in England to retaliate against Libya.
During their meeting, Walters reportedly presented Thatcher with evidence of Libyan involvement in the Berlin bombing and asked for overall British support for retaliation against Qaddafi.
In recent months, Thatcher has described retaliatory attacks as "against international law," but she has supported legitimate "self-defense" against terrorist acts, and her government has pressed the other European allies to take stronger diplomatic and economic measures against Libya.
At the meeting in The Hague, Britain is expected to press again for tough diplomatic measures against Qaddafi, arguing that the situation has worsened since they last considered the issue in January.
Genscher, in an interview with the mass circulation daily Bild, insisted that the best way to combat terrorism is to improve coordination among allied security agencies. He rejected economic sanctions as too ineffectual and military force as too reckless in dealing with Qaddafi.
"I must warn against any hasty action. Caution is always the best counsel, especially in foreign affairs," Genscher said.
Foreign Ministry officials conceded that Genscher's visit to Washington this week could be one of his most difficult ventures in his 12 years in the post. In recent months, West Germany's reluctance to support the Reagan administration's hard-nosed approach to terrorism has become a serious aggravation in relations between Bonn and Washington.
In January, following terrorist attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports that the United States blamed on Qaddafi, the Kohl government flatly rejected U.S. demands to isolate Libya by imposing economic sanctions.
West Germany enjoys lucrative trade and economic ties with Libya, one of its principal oil suppliers. In addition, about 1,400 Germans work in Libya, and Bonn is concerned about their welfare.