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Britain Advises Its Nationals in Libya to Leave

April 28, 1986

LONDON (AP) _ A British official called a meeting of Britons who still live in Libya and urged them to leave the country, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said today.

On Sunday, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, renewing her support for the April 15 U.S. bombing raid on Libya, refused to rule out her government’s support for future raids, including possible strikes at Syria or Iran.

″Let me make it clear, I will never run a policy where the only thing we can do is just cow before a tyrant or cringe before him, because in that way he would have won and terrorism would have won,″ she told the British Broadcasting Corp.

The United States said it staged the raid to punish Libya for its alleged pro-terrorism policy. Britain was the sole U.S. ally in Europe to cooperate in the use of military action, although the 12-nation Common Market, of which Britain is a member, since has agreed to a package of diplomatic sanctions and restrictions on Libyans abroad.

Last week, Mrs. Thatcher’s government expelled 22 Libyans as potential subversives and took steps to oust more than 330 Libyan trainee pilots and aircraft engineers as security risks.

The British consul in Tripoli, Hugh Dunnachie, called a meeting of Britons in Libya on Sunday to tell them that their government recommended they leave or send their dependents home, the Foreign Office spokeswoman in London said.

″We’ve been giving this advice for some time,″ said the spokeswoman, who in accordance with British civil service practice refused to be identified. ″They are at risk and have been for awhile.″

The BBC said more than 100 Britons attended the meeting. Foreign Office officials expected to known more about the session later today after they had contacted Dunnachie. About 4,000 Britons remain in Libya.

Britain cut relations with Col. Moammar Khadafy’s government in April 1984 after a gunman firing from inside the Libyan embassy killed a policewoman.

Dunnachie, head of the British interests section in the Italian Embassy, stayed in Tripoli to conduct consular activities for British residents, most of whom work in the oil sector, construction or education. Their number has dropped by about 1,000 since the U.S. raid.

Asked Sunday if she would sanction the use of British bases if the United States decides again to attack Libya, or two other nations suspected by Western leaders of terrorist involvement - Iran and Syria - Mrs. Thatcher said any U.S. request would be considered on merits.

″No one will ever hear me say that a tyrant can be certain that this government would not take action against him because if I were to say that, it would be the green light for terrorism to go ahead,″ she said.

To an opposition charge that she has proved to be President Reagan’s docile ″poodle,″ Mrs. Thatcher retorted, ″I don’t think I would make a very good poodle. I might be more of a sort of bulldog.″

″There is no question of dancing to someone else’s tune,″ she said. ″We looked at the tune and we agreed that it should be played.″

Recalling British attempts to appease Nazi Germany before World War II, she said, ″It would have been jolly easy to run away, jolly easy to demonstrate the weakness that was demonstrated in the 1930s.″

She said the United States stood by Britain in its 1982 war with Argentina over the Falklands Island, the disputed British colon in the South Atlantic.

″I believe he (President Reagan) was justified in what he was doing and I believe ... friendship is two ways,″ she said.