The Reagan administration, reacting sharply to Moscow's condemnation of U.S. air strikes against Libya, charged yesterday that the Soviet Union is partly to blame for the confrontation because it ignored an American request to deter Libyan terrorists from the April 5 bombing of a West Berlin nightclub.
State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said that the Soviet action in supplying Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi with SA5 surface-to-air missiles last December encouraged him "to take risks which would force us to respond." Speaking of the Berlin nightclub explosion that killed an American and a Turk and wounded scores more, Kalb added:
"On March 27, we advised Soviet officials here and in Berlin that we had evidence indicating Libya was planning actions against U.S. interests and citizens in Berlin. We urged the Soviets and East Germans to restrain the Libyans. Had they done so, this entire cycle of events would have been avoided."
Kalb also accused Moscow of delaying tactics in canceling a May 14-16 meeting here between Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. They were supposed to plan the summit that President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to hold here this year as a follow-up to the Geneva summit last November. But the Soviets said yesterday that the U.S. "criminal action" against Libya made a Shevardnadze visit "impossible at this stage."
In Moscow, the official news agency, Tass, reported that Gorbachev sent Qaddafi a message reaffirming a commitment to Libya's defense and underscoring Moscow's apparent intent to continue its arms relationship by replacing equipment destroyed in the raid. (Details, Page A21)
Kalb, charging that "the Soviet Union is calling into question its commitment to the agreement reached at the Geneva summit for an intensified dialogue," said:
"They have wasted six months since the summit. If they do not wish to meet, so be it. But the problems are still there. We are going to continue working on them. The Soviet Union should do likewise."
Shultz, interviewed on the "CBS Morning News," acknowledged that the cancellation of Shevardnadze's visit diminishes the chances for a summit in this country before the end of the year. However, he added that the United States believes it is important to keep a dialogue with Moscow going, and he said that the administration is prepared to proceed whenever the Soviets are ready.
The administration also seized on a visit to the White House by West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to begin smoothing over the strains that the Libya raid caused in relations with America's West European allies.
Senior administration officials privately had made known their disappointment over the failure of the Europeans to agree on economic sanctions against Qaddafi, and some officials are known to be angry at the refusal of France and Spain to permit U.S. planes, which participated in the raid from bases in Britain, to use their air space in reaching Libya.
Most West European governments, while agreeing that the United States had provocation, privately have been critical of the U.S. resort to force because they fear it will incite further terrorist incidents in Europe.
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said yesterday that Libya has become "a enter of international terrorism," and the Bonn government added that its examination of U.S.-provided evidence established Libyan complicity in the Berlin nightclub bombing.
However, U.S. sources said that despite these supportive statements, Genscher, in talks with Shultz here yesterday, had reiterated the widely held European view that economic sanctions would be ineffective and that the U.S. resort to force could reinforce the cycle of terrorism, force moderate Arab states to distance themselves from the West and turn European public opinion against the United States.
A senior administration official, who spoke with reporters after Genscher's White House visit, said there was "considerable rapport" between him and Reagan. The official, who declined to be identified, said "there was a consensus, certainly a meeting of the minds, on the danger of international terrorism" and "ways to increase cooperation in combatting it."
He said Genscher had suggested to Reagan that the West seek to broaden this cooperation by seeking help from moderate Arab states and East European Warsaw Pact countries.
The official added that Genscher expects his proposals to be discussed at a meeting today of European Economic Community foreign ministers, and they probably will be brought up at the economic summit in Tokyo May 2-4.
The official declined to give specifics about Genscher's ideas. However, he is understood to have noted that Arab governments and Warsaw Pact nations have vast intelligence about terrorist plans and movements and might be willing to share this information with the West if channels can be created for exchanges without publicity.
Shultz, who spoke to five European countries over the U.S. Information Agency's WORLDNET satellite television service, said it was "too bad" that France had not permitted U.S. planes to use its air space. He praised British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for allowing the planes to take off from their British bases, and he emphasized that despite European reservations about the U.S. action, the administration considers continued alliance solidarity "of critical importance" to American inter- ests.
U.N. Ambassador Vernon A. Walters, who visited major West European capitals before the raid to try to enlist European support, said on NBC's "Today" program, "I think the alliance is absolutely solid. There are some differences on tactics, but that doesn't mean that the Europeans are going over to the enemy."
Walters dismissed anti-American demonstrations in Europe in the wake of the raids as the work of "our professional enemies . . . They're in the anti-missile business; the anti-nuclear business . . . Our friends don't demonstrate. I had a very warm reception wherever I went."