The Libyan government, putting a new twist on terrorist threats, claimed today that American and Israeli provocateurs are planning to carry out violent but covert terrorist operations in Europe to discredit the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and give Washington a pretext for further retaliatory attacks here.
A statement read to reporters by Information Minister Mohammed Sharif Eddeen said that intelligence on this alleged plot had been gained by Libyan and "other sources." But there was no way of telling if the announcement was propaganda, intelligence or a smokescreen for operations the Libyans themselves may be planning.
Eddeen said the information came from "friendly states, including European countries."
"This information stresses that Mossad Israeli intelligence , together with American intelligence, want to conduct operations in Europe, and they want to put the responsibility upon Libya ," Eddeen said.
In Washington, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said: "The CIA is not causing terrorist incidents in Europe."
Earlier in the day, Libyan officials informed the approximately 300 foreign journalists who have arrived here in the last ten days that they are expected to leave immediately.
But after two busloads carrying about 100 journalists departed for the airport, the remaining reporters, camera crews and photographers were told that they could remain here until Friday. All the American networks and most major newspapers have stayed.
Diplomats who could be contacted, meanwhile, tended to dismiss as overstatement a London Times report today suggesting that Qaddafi effectively has relinquished sole military and political power in the aftermath of the U.S. bombing raid to a five-man junta of which he is only one member.
The supposed members of the junta are, in fact, the same men who have been at the pinnacle of power around Qaddafi since the overthrow of the monarchy here in 1969. Known as the Revolutionary Council, those who remain prominent are, in addition to Qaddafi himself, his number two man, Abdul Salaam Jalloud; Defense Minister Abu Bakr Yunis, and Khuildi Hamedi, who spoke Friday at the funeral for victims of the bombing.
At a press conference last week, Jalloud made a point of saying that the members of the Revolutionary Council and subordinate groups such as the Revolutionary Committee in effect "are Qaddafi."
One of the most experienced non-aligned diplomats in Tripoli said today that he believes that since the American bombing the Libyan leader "is not weaker, but he's more cleverly organized."
Speaking of the Revolutionary Council's members, the diplomat said, "They are more equal than they used to be before, but he Qaddafi is still number one."
In effect, according to this analysis, responsibility in what was heretofore a government deliberately founded on anarchical principles is now being more deliberately delegated by Qaddafi to his subordinates.
At the same time, the Soviet profile, which appeared remarkably low in the days before the bombing, is once again looming high.
Yesterday, a Soviet Navy frigate docked in Tripoli harbor. Libyan television announced tonight that a group of Soviet naval technicians are visiting.
Last night, Libyan television showed for the first time what may be a piece of the U.S. Air Force F111 jet that crashed during the raid last week. A metal structure about 5 feet long that appeared to be part of a wing or tail section was shown in the surf at a Libyan beach. What appeared to be the same piece, painted military green with a wide red stripe on its edge, was shown on television again tonight. Several apparent bullet holes were pointed out by a commentator.
The coincidence of the arrival of the Soviet ship and technicians with the showing of the film of the piece of wreckage suggested to some European analysts here that the Soviet ship may have come to Tripoli to recover some of the plane for intelligence purposes.
Jalloud said last week that Libya would be seeking closer ties with the Soviets and was considering allowing them to establish bases here.
One diplomat with extensive contacts in the East Bloc said today that he believes that at the moment this is "pure tactics" on Libya's part, "a warning to Western Europe and the United States." But he added that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has made efforts since the U.S. bombing to show support for Qaddafi in a number of ways besides supplying him with arms.
Yesterday, for instance, a government spokesman in Moscow claimed that the Soviets had gathered evidence indicating American losses in the raid might have included five planes rather than the one acknowledged by Washington. Even though this was sharply denied by Washington, the claim was a propaganda boost to Libya.
Early in the day, Information Ministry officials in the lobby of the Grand Hotel, where reporters have been housed, told them during breakfast that under no circumstances would they be allowed to stay and that if they could not find airline bookings, they would be put on the first outgoing planes in any direction.
"Your mission is accomplished," Eddeen told reporters who spent the last several days recording damage here from the American attack on April 15. The official "program" of bus rides to bomb sites and press conferences is over, and thus there is no reason for journalists to stay, officials said.
The Libyans made it impossible for journalists to leave the hotel to visit diplomatic sources early in the day, and some envoys reached by telephone yesterday said that they had been warned not to talk to the press.