Washington — Weinberger noncommittal on Mideast naval buildup
As an unusually large assembly of US Navy warships converged in the eastern Mediterranean, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger Sunday refused to confirm or deny speculation that the United States was planning some type of military retaliation in Lebanon for the terrorist bombing that killed more than 200 US servicemen. Syria was reportedly mobilizing reservists to counter any action that might follow the US buildup.
The carrier USS Eisenhower and the battleship USS New Jersey head a fleet of a dozen ships already near Lebanon, while the carriers USS Independence and USS John Kennedy are heading in that direction with their battle groups. Altogether, at least 29 Navy ships with about 300 aircraft could soon be in the area.
But Mr. Weinberger, interviewed on a television news program, described the convergence of US ships in the area as a normal rotation of the Mediterranean fleet and refused to discuss the possibility of any military action. The US has said it would punish those responsible for the Beirut bombing once it determined who was responsible.
Syria Monday used coded messages on Damascus radio to call up reservists. The government-run radio said the US was preparing for a Grenada-like military operation.