Libya reportedly is moving its jet fighters to desert oases and posting machine gun nests around public buildings, saying the United States plans an attack to follow up on its downing of two Libyan planes.
The Rome newspaper Il Messaggero reported from Tripoli Thursday that Libyan fighter jets were transferred inland from coastal bases, some as far south as the heart of the Sahara desert, to be out of range of possible attack by U.S. naval forces in the Mediterranean.An Italian in Tripoli said by telephone that the capital's streets were calm but that public buildings were fortified with machine gun posts one day after U.S. jets shot down two Libyan MiG fighters over the Mediterranean.
Soldiers stood in for traffic police in the streets, the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said.
The government refused entry to 30 foreign journalists at Tripoli airport Thursday, and an aide at the Information Ministry indicated the 200 journalists now in Libya also may be asked to leave.
The Libyan government newspaper Al-Fajr El-Jadid said the shooting "clearly demonstrates that the United States intends to attack Libya. The United States (fleet in the Mediterranean) is there to attack Libya and the attack against our airplanes is evidence of this."
The Reagan administration said Libya was lying when it claimed the planes were unarmed reconnaissance aircraft. Col. Moammar Gadhafi has not appeared publicly since he denounced the incident Wednesday as American "terrorism" and vowed to "meet challenge with challenge."
Libyan officials promised Western journalists a visit to a plant that the U.S. administration charges was built recently to manufacture chemical weapons. Gadhafi insists the plant is a pharmaceutical factory. By Friday, the promised visit to the site, in Rabta 60 miles southwest of Tripoli, had not materialized.
Syria's health minister, Mohammed Ayad Chatti, who said he visited the plant recently, told reporters the facility was "a small factory, not high-tech" and that it manufactures medicine. Asked about reports it was ringed with missiles, he replied, "That's because it cost a lot."