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US rescue bid: still support from W. Europe, Japan but US prestige drops in Mideast as tensions rise; EC pulls together

Bonn correspondent Elizabeth Pond reports: Behind Europe's shocked condolences, pained silences, and condemnations of America's fiasco in Iran lie fears of war and increased misgivings about the entire American leadership system.

To offset these, the European Community is making urgent efforts to minimize the damage of the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages and to maximize Europe's limited role in formulating overall Western policies.

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West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and all of the EC leaders meeting in their Luxembourg summit April 27 want to avoid recriminations over the desert raid.

They think the operation had the unfortunate effect of humiliating the US and President Carter, but they are saying as little as possible publicly. Instead they applaud the signs taht a chastened PResident Carter will return to less dangerous diplomatic and economic efforts to free the American hostages.

The US misadventure in Iran may also have the unexpected result of scaring the EC into resolving the bitter French-British budget quarrel. An emergency session of agricultural ministers of the Nine on the eve of the Luxembourg EC summit may have hammered out enough of a compromise on agricultural prices and Britain's high contribution to farm support to enable the EC government and state heads to get on with world problems.

A united position on domestic EC issues is suddenly seen here as a vital prerequisite for any united European voice on the crucial issues of war and peace.

The prod to European policy coordination and even leadership is the one silver lining that some Europeans see in a generally discouraged view of Washington's leadership of the West.

A succession of events starting with the Vietnam war and including the massive Soviet conventional and nuclear military buildup in Europe has left a growing number of Europeans worrying that the American political system is unsuited to provide leadership of the Western alliance.


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