Libyan buildup against Sudan? US claims leave Egypt puzzled

Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi reacted Thursday to an American decision to send radar surveillance planes to Egypt and to move an aircraft carrier toward the Gulf of Sirte, off the coast of Libya.

In a statement carried by the official Libyan news agency, Colonel Qaddafi said, ''The Libyan people is ready to fight to defend its territory, its territorial waters, and its airspace.''

Sources at the Pentagon said the American moves are intended to counter a Libyan military buildup against Sudan. Colonel Qaddafi, the Pentagon sources said, had sent air units to bases in Chad, the adjacent country to the south, where Libya supports guerrillas opposed to the government of President Hissein Habre.

The American moves came amid a tide of unconfirmed reports about the deteriorating security situation in the Sudan.

Egyptian officials claimed to have no knowledge of a recent Libyan military buildup against Sudan.

The officials also denied reports that Egyptian troops were in a state of alert and described the Pentagon reports as ''a lot of commotion about nothing.''

Both the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and the United States Embassy here in separate statements confirmed the arrival of US AWACS (airborne warning and control system) planes but said that they were intended for training purposes.

''Some Egyptian crews are currently being trained in the use and operation of electronic equipment of American reconnaissance aircraft,'' the Foreign Ministry statement said.

The US Embassy statement added that ''The current deployment of US Air Force AWACS aircraft is in concert with combined US-Egyptian air training.''

Earlier this month, the US government, according to diplomats, sent a notice to Mediterranean governments that it would be conducting air operations near the Gulf of Sirte in the week from Feb. 14 to 19.

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