President-elect Bush says he shares President Reagan's determination to prevent a huge Libyan chemical weapons factory from being used "to spread further destruction" but will not go into detail about means of doing so.
Answering reporters' questions after announcing his latest Cabinet appoinments Thursday, Bush said he thought the matter should be discussed at an international conference on chemical weapons, set for Jan. 6 in Paris."One shouldn't give up on trying to turn around the Libyan regime," he said. "But what happens beyond that, if there is a direct refusal to do that, what . . . the free world, and I think that most of the world, frankly, would mandate, then we'll consider options at that time."
Asked specifically whether he shared the Reagan administration's commitment to preventing the spread of chemical weapons by Libya, he said that "not only should our administration be committed to that, but in my view, any civilized country around the world should be committed to that objective."
"And in terms of what means one uses to achieve that end, I think it would be inappropriate to go into detail," he said. "It does seem to me that our allies can help and, yes, we all ought to be committed to seeing that that plant not . . . spread further destruction."
Meanwhile Clovis Maksoud, the Arab League's representative in Washington, said it was "not true" that Libya was producing chemical weapons.
"This atmosphere of creating a focus on Libya as a scapegoat may be an attempt, directly or indirectly, by the Israelis to shift from the central challenge of the peace offensive that the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and the Arabs are undertaking," Maksoud told reporters.
He said the U.S. accusation "might give a prior pretext for those who want to strike at an Arab country in order to prevent the maturing of the moderating developments that are taking place in the Arab world as a result primarily of the Arab-PLO dialogue."
Reagan, in an interview broadcast Thursday evening on ABC-TV, said military action against the Libyan site has been discussed by the United States and its allies, but "that's a decision that has not been made yet." The portion of the interview containing the remark was included in the network's Wednesday night newscast.