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Britain apparently failed today in its efforts to persuade its European allies to take joint action against Syria for its alleged role in sponsoring international terrorism. But the US government insisted it was continuing to assess the situation and considering further actions. NPR's Elizabeth Colton reports." Here in Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Redman emphasized that the American action of withdrawing its Ambassador from Damascus represented a strong signal and was not at all a routine or normal procedure as the Syrian Foreign Minister described it yesterday. 'To define what we did, withdrawing one's ambassador is, in diplomatic terms, an extremely serious measure, a sign of great displeasure with a country's policies.' But Redman skirted the issue of why the US had not taken stronger action against Syria now as the American military did against Libya last April. 'We've often said in the past that we're not on some sort of automatic pilot in the case of any of these questions. And finally, that we're in the process of consulting with the British and our allies on what other steps may now be appropriate.' The State Department has sent the head of its anti-terrorism office, Ambassador Paul Bremmer, to London to coordinate any further Western action against Syria. I'm Elizabeth Colton in Washington."


In Nicaragua today, former US Attorney General Griffin Bell proposed a prisoner swap to free American Eugene Hasenfus. Hasenfua is on trial in a people's tribunal for allegedly shipping supplies to contra rebel forces. Bell suggested trading Hasenfus for nineteen Nicaraguans held in US jails. All but one of the Nicaraguans is imprisoned on drug charges. Bell says he isn't sure the US or Nicaragua will accept the proposed deal.


A former air force enlisted man has been arrested for allegedly trying to sell information to the Soviets. The Justice Department said today that Allen John Davies was arrested in San Francisco while trying to deliver the plans of an air force reconnaissance project to men he thought were Soviets. Davies faces up to life in jail if convicted.


Today in Luxembourg, Britain pushed for sanctions against Syria. At a meeting of the European community, British Foreign Minister Sir Jeffrey Howe called for a collective response against Syria which Britain accuses of involvement in an attempted airline bombing in London. From Luxembourg, the BBC's Clifford Smith reports.
Sir Jeffrey Howe is not asking his European partners to do exactly as Britain did, for instance, to break off diplomatic relations with Syria. He is asking, however, for what he calls a clear collective response, something that will tell Syria that its behavior is unacceptable to all twelve. On this point, he seems to have found reluctance among at least some ministers. But he also seems to have been taking a very firm line. At one moment, he pointedly reminded the meeting that only last month he had called an emergency meeting of the twelve Ministers of the Interior at French request and that that meeting had not only declared solidarity with France against the terrorist bomb attacks in Paris, but had produced what he called 'useful and practical results.' Sir Jeffrey's implication was clear. France, he thinks, should not now be hanging back, but should help in getting similar results from this meeting in Luxembourg. The certain ideas which are said to be at the forefront of discussion here among the twelve have not yet been officially revealed. But there are indications they may include the banning or restriction of flights to or from Damascus and the reduction of embassy staffs. Against this, some Ministers are clearly putting the point that it would not be good for the prospects of Middle East peace to isolate Syria too much. Since everyone here agrees that Syria has a necessary role in that process. The BBC's Clifford Smith reporting from Luxembourg.
News analyst Daniel Shore says that Britain's evidence linking Syria to the attempted bombing places the Reagan Administration in an uncomfortable situation.
The Reagan Administration has been aware for months of the solid evidence that Syrian air force and intelligence organized Nezar Hindawi's attempt to blow up an El Al airliner with two hundred Americans among its three hundred and seventy-five passengers, apparently in revenge for Israel's forcing down of a Syrian plane in a search for terrorists. The case against Syria also includes the bombing of an Arab-German Friendship Club in Berlin and probable complicity in the Beirut bombing that killed two hundred and forty-one American marines. That case is at least as strong as the evidence of Colonel Quddafi's involvement in the Berlin Discotheque bombing last April, which led President Reagan to order a retaliatory bombing raid on Libya. The President, having said he would take similar action against Syria if a similar smoking gun were produced, faces the dilemma now that Britain has produced a smoking gun of how to orchestrate a response short of an attack on Syria that he has no intention of ordering. Syria raises problems that Libya did not. A sign from President Assad's ambiguous contribution to gaining freedom for hostages and his dubious role in the stagnant Middle East peace process: any use of force against Syrian territory would probably trigger a response from the Soviet Union under a treaty commitment. And an attack on a Syrian controlled Bekaa Valley, terrorist staging area in Lebanon, might jeopardize American hostages who are believed to be held in that area. And so, the administration seeks to divert attention from President Reagan's rhetoric of swift retribution, by allowing the issue to be framed by the European community in terms of verbal, diplomatic and, as an ultimate recourse, economic sanctions against Syria. The European controversy arrays Britain which provided bases for the American attack on Libya, against France, which denied overflight rights. And yet the Reagan Administration has not even joined Britain in breaking relations with Syria, let alone pressing Europe for more vigorous action as it did in the case of Libya. The loud-mouthed Colonel Quddafi may talk more provocatively than the wily President Assad, but officials know that Syria has cost a lot more American lives. And yet, Syria is a different ball game offering America fewer safe options. But President Reagan might wish he had not made such unqualified promises of anti-terrorist reprisal. News analyst Daniel Shore.


In London Jury deliberations begin tomorrow in the case of alleged Arab terrorist Nezar Hindawi. Today the judge gave his instructions to the jury. Hindawi, a Jordanian, has denied that he tried to blow up an Israeli airliner in April by planting explosives in his pregnant girl friend's luggage. Vera Frankle has a report.
"During three days on the witness stand, Hindawi insisted that he believed the bag he gave Anne Murphy contained not explosives, but cocaine or heroin given him by the head of a drug syndicate in Syria. Hindawi told the jury the bag produced in court was not the one he gave his girlfriend, and he suggested the bag had been switched at the El Al check-in at Heathrow as part of a plot by Massad, the Israeli secret service to discredit Syria. Hindawi came across as an affable kind of man, often smiling and gesticulating as he gave his account. But what he said must have come as something of a surprise to the jury. They'd been told by the prosecution on the opening day of the trial that Hindawi had confessed to police that he'd come to London specifically to blow up the El Al plane on the instructions of senior intelligence officers he'd met in Damascus. In court, Hindawi said the confession was a fabrication. But the prosecution urged the jurors to look at the facts, and not to let any possible political repercussions of the case cloud their judgment. Hindawi carried a Syrian passport of a kind usually reserved for government officials. It was in a false name. He traveled to London from Damascus with a Syrian Arab airlines crew and planned to return to Syria with them hours after parting from Anne Murphy at Heathrow. He'd gone to the Syrian Embassy in London and met the Ambassador as soon as he heard the bomb had been found. Hindawi didn't dispute any of these facts, but he stuck firmly to the drug story. It didn't appear to cut much ice with the judge, however. In his summation, he drew the jury's attention to a list of names of contacts allegedly drawn up by Hindawi in custody. Among them was that of General Mohammed Alcooly, head of Syrian Air Force Intelligence who's described by sources in London as President Assad's closest advisor and head of Syria's National Security Council. How, the judge asked the jury, did those names get on that piece of paper? No doubt about it, that's his handwriting. The judge recalled the prosecution's point that if the El Al jumbo had blown up in mid-air, there would have been no evidence of Syrian involvement, or Hindawi's involvement either. It might have all worked out smoothly if Hindawi hadn't panicked when the explosives were found and fled to the Syrian Embassy. He would have been back in Syria within hours. The judge urged the jury not to rush their decision. Clearly, if the jury returns a verdict of 'guilty,' the British government will have to provide a speedy answer to the question that's been on many minds throughout the three-week trial; what to do about Syria. Strong diplomatic action will be inevitable, because as one British commentator put it, 'Syria will stand more conclusively convicted of terrorism than Colonel Quddafi has ever been.' For National Public Radio, I'm Vera Frankle in London."
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