Thatcher amplifies on Gulf force

Just back from the United States, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has moved quickly to blunt criticism in Parliament and from the Persian Gulf that she "jumped the gun" on a quick-reaction force with the Americans in the Gulf area, reports Monitor correspondent David Willis.

No decision to set up such a force had yet been made, she said. And before it was, she said, European allies would be consulted and Gulf nations would be consulted about its use. She also said such a force could be used in areas other than the Gulf.

Discussion of such a force was vital, she said, if the West was to protect itself against an expansionist Soviet Union, now spending 13 percent of its gross national product on defense.

Labour opposition members accused her of pledging to support a possible American quick-reaction force before consulting either European allies or Gulf nations. Initial editorials in Saudi Arabia and in Qatar sounded a note of concern that Western powers were trying to dominate the area.

Mrs. Thatcher ran into a ministorm of opposition from Labour liberal members at a question time on March 2, the day after she returned home.

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