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Denunciations, little support for U.S. air strikes

The Kremlin led a chorus of denunciations Monday for the U.S. air strike against Syrian strongholds in Lebanon, reaffirming Soviet 'support and sympathy' for Syria and warning of 'unpredictable consequences.'

Britain was among the only outright supporters of the action, while Italy hinted that continued conflict in Lebanon might prompt a review of its contribution of troops to the country's multinational peace-keeping force.

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President Reagan said the air strike, in which two U.S. jets were shot down, was in retaliation for Syrian attacks on unarmed American reconnaissance flights. It was the first air strike by U.S. forces in Lebanon.

Syrian-backed Druze militiamen responded to the strike by shelling U.S Marines stationed at Beirut Airport. Eight servicemen were killed.

The official Soviet news agency Tass termed the U.S. attack 'another barbarous act of aggression.'

'Washington and Tel Aviv should realize that a Grenadian approach to Soviet-backed Syria is fraught with unpredictable consequences for those who encroach on its independence,' the Novosti news agency said.

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'We condemn this act of aggression. It has made the entire Soviet public indignant,' Kremlin spokesman Leonid Zamyatin said during a news conference in Moscow on arms control.

'Our support and sympathy are with the Arab peoples who are fighting the aggressor that has intruded into their territory.'

Zamyatin said the raid was 'a new fact of banditry and aggression that has been perpetrated for more than a year by Israeli troops with the backing of U.S. armed forces.'

In Peking, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the U.S. attack and an Israeli air strike against Syrian positions on Saturday have 'further intensified the tense situation in the Middle East.'

'We strongly denounce those raids,' said the spokesman in a release issued by the official Xinhua news agency.

In London, Malcolm Rifkind, British minister of state for foreign affairs, told Parliament that Reagan was justified in ordering the air strike.

'The incidents over the last few days involving the Americans have been self-defense under the terms of the mandate agreed at the time the U.S. forces went into the Lebanon,' he said, speaking for the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Rifkind also reaffirmed his government's resolve to maintain in Beirut Britain's 100-man contingent in the peace-keeping force, which also includes units from Italy, France and the United States.

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'The safety of our men is kept under constant review and it is vital that all parties in the Lebanon should use restraint and work together to make further progress toward national reconciliation,' said Rifkind.

Denis Healey, the opposition Labor Party's 'shadow foreign secretary,' called for the pullout of the British troops from Lebanon.

In the Middle East, Israel supported the U.S. action but Arab states denounced it.

Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, in Athens for a meeting of leaders of the European Common Market, stopped short of saying that Italy would withdraw its 2,000 troops from the 5,500-man peace-keeping force.

But he told reporters continued military clashes 'would mean our situation would become differentiated from that of the others. We have no means of military deterrence.'

Craxi after meeting French President Francois Mitterrand said that the two leaders were substantially in agreement about the role of the peace-keeping force.

In Bonn, the anti-NATO Greens party condemned the U.S. air attacks and demanded that the West German government cancel its 1984 contribution to maintain the multinational peace-keeping force.

It said in a statement it will introduce a motion in Parliament during a budget debate later this week to delete the planned contribution of $2.6 million.

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In Paris, the Le Monde newspaper called the air strike a 'perilous exercise ... In taking recourse to force, Reagan risks to complicate even more the reconciliation process in Lebanon and the chance of peace in the Middle East. The event authorizes all manner of anxieties.'

In Rome, The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial that the raid and the Syrian response struck 'a tough blow at the cause of peace.'

In Pakistan, a spokesman for the government of President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq expressed concern over the U.S. attack and urged restraint on new military actions.

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