Alone of the European Community's 12 member states, Greece officially has yet to expel a single Libyan diplomat despite the community's unanimous pledge to crack down on Col. Moammar Gadhafi's alleged involvement in terrorism.
Unmoved by opposition charges that his government has lost all credibility abroad, by undocumented suspicions about financial ties with Gadhafi and by outspoken U.S. rebukes, Socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou has argued that Greece is a special case.
Papandreou's reputation as something of a lone wolf in Western Europe with special ties to the Arab world works to his advantage domestically. Many Greeks see his government as the first truly independent one in modern Greek history and see his defiance of the West as a fulfillment of the dreams of generations.
For Greece's voice to continue to be heard, Papandreou's Socialist Party consistently maintains, it must differentiate itself from the West.
The government has cited several reasons for its failure to expel any Libyan diplomats, including the longstanding "special relationship" with the Arab world, fears of retaliation against its diplomats in Libya and U.S. failure to provide proof that Gadhafi supports terrorists.
The government also has said it prefers to work quietly behind the scenes with its western allies, as evidenced by increased information exchanges on terrorists and now exemplary security at Athens' once lax airport.
Libya supported Papandreou's Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) in the mid-70s when it was largely ignored by Western European Socialists and Social Democrats. The left wing of the party would be angered by actions against Libya, as would the openly hostile Communists. Even the moderate and right-wing opposition see the community sanctions against Libya as dictated by the United States.
Greek public opinion seems almost indifferent to terrorism, although this country of 9 million has lost more victims to terrorism than has the United States.
In the last nine months alone, at least 26 Greeks or Greek-Americans -- including airline passengers, a newspaper publisher, an industrialist and policemen -- have died in terrorist incidents, two more than the number of Americans the State Department listed as terrorism victims during all of 1985.
Although the government gave no outward sign of being perturbed by Greece's isolation from its western allies, government sources leaked word to western news agencies recently that "under 10" Libyans had left Greece. The sources said the Libyans were not diplomats, but gave no further details.
But the government's refusal to confirm or deny its own leak officially only served to increase skepticism among western diplomats and opposition politicians who remain unconvinced that any Libyans have departed.
Helen Vlachos, publisher of the respected newspaper Kathimerini said in an interview that Papandreou's handling of Gadhafi did not justify persistent opposition charges that he had taken money from Libya in the past, "although he acts like someone who has obligations."
The opposition expressed similar doubts about Papandreou's motives in rapidly arranging a state visit by Syrian President Hafez Assad in late May. Assad's first visit to a NATO country was apparently timed to provide a western platform for denying charges of Syrian involvement in terrorist incidents in Berlin and London.
In an apparent effort to balance Greece's pro-Arab tilt, Israeli Tourism Minister Avraham Sharir was invited here in mid-May for what was described as the first such official visit in a quarter century. He was quoted as saying Greece "was taking a very serious approach on combating terrorism."
A month earlier, Papandreou's long and close relationship with Gadhafi had embarrassed the government. Only days after the April 15 U.S. raid on Libya, Ahmad Shehati, a Libyan foreign affairs specialist, arrived on what the Greek government later described as a mission to have Athens mediate with the West.
Hours after Shehati flew out of Athens after seeing Papandreou, he returned and held a midnight news conference, broken up by Greek police, to deny that Libya favored any such mediation.
Indicative of lingering doubts about Libya were questions last week in Parliament by three opposition members.
They wanted to know why 56 diplomatic license plates had been provided for the Libyan diplomatic mission's four officially listed members and if the government was aware that such privileges were extended to known arms dealers and terrorists previously expelled from another European country.
The questions came less than a week after Papandreou, in a debate recalling his academic past at U.S. and Canadian universities, defined for Parliament seven forms of terrorism starting with the French revolution.
His speech, according to western diplomats, seemed to be aimed as much at his American and European allies as at his squabbling, disorganized domestic opposition.
Papandreou condemned terrorism, but exempted from his strictures various acts of violence such as the Greeks' and Algerians' wars of liberation, "the Palestinian struggle" and resistance against the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974.
Reprehensible forms of terrorism, he said, were acts by "small groups" such as Italy's Red Brigades, West Germany's Baader-Meinhof gang or "November 17" in Greece which has claimed responsibility for assassinating prominent Greeks and American officials.
Papandreou also criticized the "destabilization of other regimes, such as that used in Nicaragua, Afghanistan and Libya."
Papandreou also denounced the Reagan administration for "seeking the legalization of a type of global policing, asking that people who carry out terrorist acts outside the United States be arrested and tried there."
State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb replied, in language European diplomats described as "barely diplomatic," that "we feel the prime minister's remarks are baseless, unhelpful and indeed harmful to achieve a focused, effective response to international terrorism."
The lack of visible American and Western European pressure on the government has convinced many Greeks that Washington does not wish to disturb the present calm concerning the future of U.S. bases, its prime concern.