Political temperature lowers in Libya. But Col. Qaddafi makes it clear that his messianic devotion to world revolution continues
Col. Muammar Qaddafi's escape from the American air raid Tuesday and his subsequent television broadcast have lowered the political temperature here. Libyan radio and TV have moderated somewhat their strident anti-Western tone. People ignored or even smiled at a foreigner in Tripoli's streets Thursday, rather than muttering insults as on the previous day. Western embassies continued to discuss plans for evacuating more than 40,000 Western citizens in this country, but without the urgency of the first day of crisis.
The United States and Britain, however, still face a mounting wave of terrorism and protests by the East bloc, third world, and even West Europeans.
Colonel Qaddafi made it clear in his broadcast Wednesday night, from a new and apparently safer base somewhere in Libya, that his messianic devotion to world revolution continues.
In his speech, Qaddafi accused President Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of being ``child-murderers.'' Qaddafi's 15-month-old adopted daughter did not survive the bombing of Qaddafi's family home. His two young sons, Saif Arab and Hamis, were wounded and remained in hospital.
At the same time, Qaddafi said he was ordering no further military retaliations against southern Europe. His only known attempt to retaliate so far came Tuesday, when two long-range missiles were fired at the small Italian island of Lampedusa. Italy said the missiles fell short.
``We decided to respond'' to calls of ``friendly countries urging us not to escalate the military situation against south Europe,'' Qaddafi said.
[The United States said Wednesday the murder of three Westerners in Lebanon bore the marks of Abu Nidal, a Palestinian guerrilla with close ties to Libya, and that Libyan involvement was also suspected in the shooting Wednesday of an American diplomat in Sudan.]
Qaddafi praised France and Spain for not permitting British-based US F-111 fighter bombers to overfly their territory. Malta won his approval for ``exerting sincere efforts to end Mediterranean tensions.''
Qaddafi urged all Arab states to sever diplomatic relations with the US. Conservative Saudi Arabia, a longtime adversary of Qaddafi, led the Arab states in protesting the US action in the UN Security Council.
Earlier Wednesday, a reporters' tour of Qaddafi's bombed-out home and headquarters disclosed craters from at least eight high-explosive bombs, apparently meant to kill Qaddafi. The US denies it tried to kill him.
His office and home, where from a balcony he promised to continue confronting the US after his forces skirmished with the US Sixth Fleet March 24-25, were demolished. His wife, Safia, who survived, was inside that building with the Qaddafi children when it was hit.
Bodyguards showed the reporters Qaddafi's Bedouin tent, where they said he was sleeping after working late, when one bomb exploded about 100 yards away.
Shortly before this, the reporters' bus had been turned away from the compound gate by apparent panic firing as a new US air raid was reported. One foreign businessman said he saw a plane high over the harbor. From the ABC News bureau in the seafront Grand Hotel, reporters were sure they could see Libyan gunboats and antiaircraft guns and missiles firing into the air.
Late at night, the harbor below the hotel again erupted in wild firing, apparently in a new air raid alert.
Libyan Information Minister Muhammad Sharif Din Fayturi told reporters that the afternoon ``raid'' -- denied by Washington -- involved a pass by a US SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane. He claimed US fighter bombers tried to ``infiltrate'' Libyan airspace from the direction of Tunisia to bomb several places near Tripoli, including Tarhuna, about 30 miles southeast of Tripoli.
Reports from Washington, unconfirmed in Libya, claim the Libyan Air Force joined in factional fighting between pro- and anti-Qaddafi forces at Tarhuna. Some Western embassies here claimed they heard small-arms fire in Tripoli near Qaddafi's former headquarters, but could not explain it.
Finally, near midnight, Qaddafi's speech relieved suspense here. After he ordered an end to Tripoli's three-night blackout, pro-Qaddafi demonstrators with bright lights serenaded newsmen in the Grand Hotel with shouts on loudspeakers and the beating of large drums.
``One of the most spectacular days ever in the ongoing `Qaddafi Show,' with Qaddafi himself still directing,'' remarked one rather cynical Western correspondent. ``But what will the next act be?''
There was no immediate answer as night fell April 17 over a more relaxed but still worried city.
Mr. Cooley, the Monitor's former Middle East reporter, is an ABC staff correspondent.