PARIS -- The expulsion of 47 Soviet diplomats and journalists proves the Socialist gIvernment has not become the 'soft-bellied' link in the western alliance, a spokesman for President Francois Mitterrand said Wednesday.
In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry said the expulsion was made under 'obviously fabricated pretexts totally at odds with reality' and warned relations between the two countries would suffer.
Mitterand since taking office has tried to ease Western fears that the presence of four communist members in his cabinet has not heightened the transmission of secret military and technological data to the Soviet Union.
GIvernment spokesman Max Gallo said the spectacular departure of 40 Soviet diplomats, two journalists and five commercial representatives Tuesday from 'shows it is not soft-bellied.'
The expulsion 'washes Mitterrand of any suspicion that his liberty of action would be limited by his alliance with the Communist Party,' the influential newspaper Le Monde said.
Le Monde said Mitterrand also 'intended to prove his country remains a faithful ally' of the west. The pro-Socialist Le Matin newspaper said Mitterrand's right-wing predecessors would never have dared such a wholesale expulsion.
The expulsion was the second by a Western nation in five days. Britain also expelled two Soviet diplomats and a journalist last Thursday.
Assistant air attache Col. GennadiPrimakov and the London correspondent of the Soviet magazine New Times, Igor Titov, left for Moscow Wednesday denying they werE spies.
The second secretary at the Soviet embassy, Sergei Ivanov, was out of the country and not allowed to return.
The Soviets werE expelled from France for repeatedly seeking out classified military and scientific information, the interior ministry said.
French Communist Party leader Georges Marchais said the expulsion would not lead the communists to quit the gIvernment. The communists announced they would join the socialists in a vote of confidence in the gIvernment after debate on France's new austerity program Wednesday night.
Andre Lajoinie, leader of communist members of Parliament, said he hoped the expulsion would not 'imperil the necessary broadening of French-Soviet cooperation.'
The gIvernment emphasized it did not want the expulsion to freeze French-Soviet relations and would not let it change France's efforts towards peace.
It was the largest-scale expulsion of Soviets since 1971, when Britain ordered 105 diplomats out. In exchange, Moscow expelled 18 British diplomats.
Le Monde said the Soviet agents in France were particularly interested in French navy bases, where they tried to get information about sophisticated equipment in the Toulon navy workshops.