Outrage, Suspicion of Khadafy and Fears of Transport Anarchy
LONDON (AP) _ West European newspapers expressed outrage today over the midair bomb explosion on a TWA jet that killed four Americans, and an international air passengers’ group said the latest attack threatened the world’s transport system.
Britain’s liberal Guardian newspaper said in an editorial that the attack on Athens-bound TWA Flight 840 ″appears certain to all but cripple U.S. tourism in the Mediterranean.″
The Soviet news agency Tass reported the story in two brief items without comment, and three of seven major morning newspapers in the Polish capital of Warsaw ignored it completely.
In Britain, the Department of Transport, responsible for airport security, said its officials met today with U.S. government and airline representatives about possible new security measures.
″We’ve got a good record, but if anything comes to light that makes us feel there’s a gap in our security arrangements, we’ll take immediate action,″ department spokesman David Deas told The Associated Press. He did not elaborate on what measures might be taken.
Hans Krakauer, deputy chairman of the 110,000-member International Air Passengers’ Association based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, said: ″The imagination and ingenuity of national and international bodies has now been challenged to find a solution to a problem which threatens the commercial transportation system of the entire world.″
He said he sympathized with his association’s U.S. branch, based in Dallas, which warned Americans to avoid travel to the Mediterranean that is not ″absolutely essential.″
″It’s very difficult for people who live in Europe to put themselves in the position of Americans, who are the first to be shot at on hijacked airplanes,″ said Krakauer, a U.S. citizen. His association provides services for frequent travelers.
The secretary general of the World Tourism Organization called on members of the intergovernmental body to help implement an anti-terrorism resolution adopted unanimously by the U.N. General Assembly last December.
″All nations must deplore this continued violence and loss of life,″ Willibald P. Pahr said in a statement issued from organization headquarters in Madrid, Spain. The organization seeks to advance world tourism and travel.
The Greek government, in whose airspace the TWA plane was bombed, condemned what it called ″a barbarous terrorist action which undermines peace and democracy.″
The Dutch Foreign Ministry said it regretted ″most seriously this act of terrorism.″
Some government officials in Europe and the Middle East said they were not yet certain terrorists were responsible. But some newspapers pointed to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Khadafy.
″Gaddafi and Flight 840,″ the conservative Daily Mail in London headlined its front-page story, using an alternate spelling for Khadafy.
In Hamburg, West Germany, the mass-circulation Bild newspaper said ″political observers″ thought Khadafy was behind the attack.
Khadafy, however, distanced himself from the TWA attack, saying: ″This is an act of terrorism against a civilian target, and I am totally against this,″ CBS News reported Wednesday.
Libyan radio this morning briefly reported the explosion as the 10th item on its newscast, and Libyan television carried the story Wednesday without comment.
Some newspapers recalled Khadafy’s threats of reprisals against U.S. targets after last month’s clashes with the U.S. 6th Fleet in the Gulf of Sidra.
London’s Daily Mail, in an editorial, questioned the wisdom of the Sidra maneuvers: ″Yesterday’s atrocity looks like the first grim evidence of what happens when Uncle Sam stabs a nest of scorpions.″
The Financial Times, the British business daily, said if the bomb was taken aboard in Rome it represented a grave embarrassment for the Italian authorities ″after all the extra security precautions they have taken.″
Security was tightened after Dec. 27 terrorist attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports in which 20 people died, including five Americans.
Greek newspapers praised what Athens’ conservative daily Kathimerini called the ″coolness, skill and heroism″ of the TWA crew that landed the stricken plane safely.
Another Athens daily, Eftherotypia, said the pilot’s steadiness after the explosion ″was decisive in preventing more passengers being hurtled to their deaths.″