WASHINGTON (Dec. 20)
In an attempt to prevent Libya from full-scale production of chemical weapons, the United States is appealing to countries whose citizens and firms are helping Libya to make such cooperation illegal, State Department officials said this week.
Arthur Berger, spokesman for the department’s Bureau of Near East and South Asian Affairs, said Tuesday that Libya is “on the verge of full-scale production of chemical weapons at an isolated site in the desert, some distance from any major town or city.”
Israel fears that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may deploy the weapons against Israeli targets. “You begin to wonder, ‘What does Gadhafi need this for?'” Berger said. “Certainly one would think not for a pesticide plant to develop agriculture in Libya.”
Berger said a welcome development is that some countries made aware of private cooperation by their citizens with Libya “have begun to crack down in a very severe way.”
In some cases, the countries passed laws making such cooperation illegal, he added.
Berger said some shipments of weapons from Libya have been intercepted, but that “some have not, unfortunately.” He cited weapons exports by Gadhafi to the Japanese Red Army and the Irish Republican Army, as well as general Libyan support for international terrorist attacks.
“One of the tragic lessons that we learned out of the Iran-Iraq war is that chemical weapons not only have been used, but in many cases have been used with impunity,” Berger said.
At the State Department Monday, spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said, “The U.S. believes that Libya has established a C.W. (chemical weapons) production capability and is on the verge of full-scale production of these weapons.”
Oakley said such a Libyan capability “would be particularly troubling in view of public reports that Libya has used C.W. in combat and because of the Gadhafi regime’s support for terrorism, and indications that Libyan-backed or supplied terrorist groups have been involved in recent terrorist attacks.”
Libya’s chemical weapons capability is expected to be discussed at an international conference on chemical weapons in Paris Jan. 7-11.
Participating will be signatories to the 1928 Geneva Protocol banning chemical weapons. Oakley announced Tuesday that Secretary of State George Shultz will participate in the talks.