Western Europe is moving to avert a crisis with the United States. Following the European Community's decision Monday to restrict the activities of Libyan missions and diplomats, six European nations have begun expelling Libyans. West Germany announced yesterday it would order the Libyan embassy in Bonn to cut its staff by half. In a separate action, France joined Britain and the US late Monday in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning the US raid on Libya.
The Reagan administration wants stronger action still. White House spokesman Larry Speakes says the allies will be asked to take ``additional measures'' to isolate Libya at next month's economic summit in Tokyo.
It appears that such pressure may well work. Until the US attack, Western Europe had refused even to specify Libya by name as a supporter of terrorism. After the attack, the European Community's slow processes were galvanized and the 12 nations agreed to take action against Libya.
They acted for two main reasons: Europeans want to prevent relations with the US from deteriorating, and their own attitudes toward terrorism are noticeably toughening.
``European governments underestimated the depth of American public revulsion to Libya,'' says Paul Wilkinson, a specialist in terrorism at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. ``Now they realize that they must cooperate in order to avoid long-term damage to the alliance.''
France provides the best example. Its refusal to let US planes fly over French airspace for the raid produced an outpouring of anti-French feeling in the US. The telephone at the French Embassy in Washington rang off the hook, and there was a stream of letters and telegrams.
A worried French government backtracked. It supported the US in the UN. Prime Minister Jacques Chirac told the New York Times that he ``didn't like the misunderstanding between France and the United States,'' and that France ``always supported the American position, because we are in the same family and we defend the same values.''