Secretary of State George P. Shultz, seeking to clarify remarks by President Reagan, said yesterday that while the United States has shown that it will use force to fight international terrorism, there are no plans for military retaliation against Iran or Syria if they are linked to terrorist acts.
"We don't have any plans for such operations," Shultz said in reference to statements made by Reagan Wednesday in a meeting with columnists and commentators.
When asked what would happen if a situation arose in which the United States had "irefutable evidence" of Iranian or Syrian complicity in terrorism, Reagan said that he would respond with military action, as he did in the April 15 air strikes against Libya.
"What the president has done and said is, first, it has been shown that the United States will use its military power in this fight against terrorism," Shultz said in an interview with the U.S. Information Agency's WORLDNET satellite television service.
"And, second, as the president said, we regard terrorism in general as a very important problem and, when the terrorists have the support and connivance of a state, it's particularly ominous. So you have to focus on that, and the president has set that out in clear and stark terms."
State Department spokesman Charles Redman, elaborating further, said:
"The president's remarks were in response to a hypothetical question. They represent no change in U.S. policy. We have always reserved to ourselves the right to respond to a terrorist attack in a manner we deem appropriate. Each case, of course, is evaluated on its own merits. We're not on some sort of autopilot . . . . "
Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) said that he would support the use of force against Iran or Syria "if there is firm evidence" that they were behind attacks on Americans.
Dole stressed, however, that it would be "too speculative" to discuss any possible retaliations unless there was an actual incident and "a smoking gun" implicating a foreign government.